Sumter, Lee, Clarendon farmers readying for Hurricane Florence

Crops harvested ahead of bad weather; cattle are not put in sheds

BY BRUCE MILLS
bruce@theitem.com
Posted 9/13/18

Many people in the local business and industry community are taking necessary steps to prepare for a potential onslaught from Hurricane Florence, and that includes farmers.

Three area farmers and a spokeswoman for the state Department of …

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Sumter, Lee, Clarendon farmers readying for Hurricane Florence

Crops harvested ahead of bad weather; cattle are not put in sheds

Posted

Many people in the local business and industry community are taking necessary steps to prepare for a potential onslaught from Hurricane Florence, and that includes farmers.

Three area farmers and a spokeswoman for the state Department of Agriculture spoke Wednesday about work being done now in preparation for the storm.

Whether it's crop or livestock farmers, all are "wide-open" busy, according to Chris Sumpter, a cattle farmer in the Borden community of the northern part of Sumter County between Dalzell and Rembert.

The call from crop farmers all this week has been to "get up as much corn as you can," they said, before storms arrive here associated with Florence.

With soybeans, farmers are trying to cut beans that are ready now, but many aren't. So, it's a "wait-and-pray" time for the beans, according to Sally McKay, communications director for the South Carolina Department of Agriculture.

Cotton, on the other hand, is still growing, so it's also all about "waiting and praying," McKay said.

Ricky Atkinson, a farmer in the Mayesville area of Lee County, said he has gotten all his corn up at his family farm and is trying to concentrate on some soybeans now.

"We're cutting beans right now as best we can," Atkinson said. "We're pushing it [time-wise], and I think everybody is pushing it with beans, trying to get what they can now. Realistically, maybe we should start next week."

For cotton, strong winds and wet weather are not good for harvesting, he said.

Crop farmers, in general, are hoping Florence dissipates to a tropical storm or less by the time it gets to the region, Atkinson said.

"Obviously, a hurricane is not ideal for anything growing in the ground," he said. "We'll wait and see what happens."

Another crop farmer, Nat Bradford of Sumter, said he thinks drainage infrastructure in the state has been improved since historic flooding in 2015 and that he hopes that can remedy problems associated with this storm.

KEEPING LIVESTOCK ALIVE

Sumpter has 32 cattle as a beef farmer on his 300-plus acres in Borden. He said most of the general public thinks farmers put livestock in sheds in preparation for a hurricane but that that's not the case.

"If you have them in some type of shelter, usually the shelter is going to be the first thing to go," Sumpter said. "The next thing you know, you are going to have a ton of injured livestock."

Sumpter said most farmers want to expose their livestock to open pastures on higher ground with a nearby wooded area - or timber tract - and have plenty of water on hand.

If winds are strong, the timber tract will slow down the wind, and livestock can protect their offspring by moving them to the tract, Sumpter said.

McKay, with the Department of Agriculture, said Commissioner Hugh Weathers has already had preliminary conversations with the state's congressional delegation and members of the state legislature on the possibility of relief packages for farmers.