HARLEYVILLE, S.C. – South Carolina’s governor warned Monday that torrential rains soaking the Southeast have flooded fields and wiped out crops, creating a disaster for agriculture in her state on par with a tornado or a hurricane.
Soggy conditions around the region have delayed harvests and cut yields, and will be felt well into winter as farmers worry there may not be enough feed for livestock when the growing season is over.
“In a hurricane you see the damage. In a tornado you see the damage,” said Nikki Haley, the South Carolina governor, who toured a damage area Monday.
“This is at the same level. This is a disaster for the state of South Carolina,” added Haley, on a visit to the farm of John Pendarvis, some 50 miles northwest of Charleston.
With crop damage exceeding 30 percent in 36 of South Carolina’s 42 counties, Haley has written U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack requesting that the state be declared an agricultural disaster area. If approved, qualifying farmers would be able to secure low-interest loans.
At Pendarvis’ farm, a nearby vegetable field had standing water and small green sprouts at a time when the squash should be ready for harvest.
Haley joined Pendarvis, state Agriculture Commissioner Hugh Weathers, agriculture officials and other farmers in a corn field where, while the crop was harvested, the heavy rains posed a challenge to getting the corn out.
“The rain for the past six or eight weeks has really damaged our crops,” Pendarvis said.
Weathers, who farms in a neighboring county, said he had to leave 20 percent of his wheat in the field. He also won’t be able to put in soybeans this year because the ground is just too wet.
The bright spot for farmers, he said, is that the rains have made field grass for cattle and dairy cows abundant. At the same time, he added, farmers won’t be able to harvest as much hay from wet ground, meaning there could be a shortage of feed after the first frost.