Major Alabama crop losses predicted from Hurricane Sally ‘but we will recover’
Hurricane Sally has levied a heavy toll on South Alabama farmers ahead of the fall harvest.
A release from the Alabama Farmers Federation on Friday outlined several individual stories of crop loss and property damage, exemplifying the type of destruction the slow-moving storm left in her wake.
Eric Street, who reportedly farms near Fairhope with his brother, shared his experience.
“It started blowing high winds about 3 a.m. and didn’t stop till mid-morning. It was a beating,” said Street. “We’ve been preparing for this our whole life. If you farm in Baldwin County, you know it’s coming.”
Ahead of this week, Street’s crop outlook was looking strong. As they tend to do in farming, conditions quickly changed.
His cotton crop now features tangled, flattened plants and cracked bolls following Sally.
Fortunately, weather — while always a known unknown — and risk generally can be mitigated against.
“We felt like we had a great crop of cotton, an awesome crop of peanuts and one of our best crops of soybeans,” advised Street, who serves on the Alabama Farmers Federation State Soybean Committee. “I think there will be something we can harvest, but I don’t know about its quality. This is why we buy crop insurance and why we bought the new hurricane protection insurance.”
Farther east in Lillian, pecans popped underfoot as Todd Cassebaum surveyed massive, overturned decades-old trees in his family’s orchard. Limbs were loaded with pecans before the storm, the Federation wrote. Cassebaum predicted it would have been his best crop in years if it were not for Sally.
“Years’ worth of work is devastated,” explained Cassebaum, who farms with his wife, Hope, the Baldwin County Farmers Federation president. “We had a good crop coming before the storm. The wind was so hard the trunks rocked and fell. They just couldn’t take it.”
Mobile County Farmers Federation President Art Sessions said that pecan and cotton crops appear to have taken the worst hit in his county. Damage to peanuts, soybeans and nursery crops may not show up for days, he noted.
Farmers farther inland also faced record amounts of rain, causing extensive damage to crops, pond dams and roadways.
Additional help to farmers and homeowners came in the form of extra Alfa Insurance adjusters and agents deployed to help customers impacted by the hurricane.
“Alfa Insurance’s hometown adjusters and agents were checking on customers and taking claims as soon as the storm moved out,” stated Alfa Insurance President Jimmy Parnell, also president of the Alabama Farmers Federation. “As of Friday morning, the company had received more than 1,600 claims across Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi. An additional 18 claims adjusters from north Alabama were being deployed to help process claims in the southern part of the state.”
Farmers are encouraged to fill out a survey here to help the Alabama Farmers Federation track damage and report findings to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Farmers should also report damage to their local Farm Service Agency office.
Street concluded that storms like Sally put life into perspective.
“My family is accounted for, and no one is hurt. That’s what I care about,” he said. “This is going to be a kick, but we will recover.”
Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn