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October 01, 2004   Email to Friend 

Debra Davis
(334) 613-4686
October 01, 2004

Immediately following Hurricane Ivan, the Alabama Farmers Federation began working to collect information about agricultural damage. Staff members met prior to the storm to formulate a plan to collect and process the information as quickly as possible to speed assistance to farmers and rural landowners who received damage. Here is a condensed copy of that report.

Cotton, Corn, Soybeans -- report compiled by Alabama Farmers Federation Cotton Division Director Buddy Adamson and Bob Goodman, Dale Monks, Marla Faver, Jim Todd, Charles Burmester, Warren Griffith, Rudy Yates, Leonard Kuykendall, Richard Petcher, William Birdsong, Jimmy Jones, David Derrick, Dennis Delaney, Rob Duffield, Malcolm Pegues, Buck Farrior, Mark Hall, and Heath Potter -- Alabama Cooperative Extension System.

The overall damage to the state's cotton crop ranges from moderate to severe, and varies on a field-by-field basis except in the hardest hit areas of Southwest Alabama. It is estimated that Alabama farmers lost approximately 390,000 bales of cotton, with an economic value of about $127 million. Additional damage from boll rot and harvesting losses, especially on the later cotton, is to be expected. Additional rainfall and/or a continuation of warm, wet conditions are likely to increase cotton damage. Damage to other agronomic crops will add approximately $2.5 million to the total.

Prior to the passage of Hurricane Ivan, the 2004 crop year promised to be a record-setting year for many Alabama cotton farmers. Average yield could have very well exceeded the previous record, set in 1985, of 795 pounds of lint produced per acre. Thus, the potential for severe damage was high due to the tremendous crop that had been produced. Further, the timing of the storm could not have been worse for Alabama producers, since most fields were ready for harvest. Many fields had received the final pre-harvest conditioning spray to remove the leaves and to open the bolls, and pickers were ready to enter the fields. Because the bolls were open, the cotton was more easily blown from the plant.

Corn - The corn crop was between 75-80 percent harvested throughout the state, and the crop in south Alabama was virtually complete. Of the estimated 15-20,000 acres not harvested, approximately half will be lost. This represents a severe loss to the affected farmers and totals approximately $2 million for the state.

Soybeans - Alabama soybean farmers also suffered as a result of Hurricane Ivan. Unlike corn but similar to cotton, the soybean harvest had yet to begin. As with cotton, the damage to the soybean crop depended on location and maturity of the field in question. Early maturing soybean fields received less damage, while full-season varieties suffered up to 60 percent losses in the hardest hit areas. Most soybean acreage avoided heavy damage, but approximately half the soybean crop in the southwest counties, about 5,000 acres, were severely damaged, resulting in approximately $650,000 in losses to farmers.

Peanuts -- reported by Alabama Peanut Producer Executive Director Randy Griggs

The overall impact of the hurricanes on peanuts has been minimum, particularly in comparison to some other crops. The impact on producers in west Alabama has been severe in many cases. The full extent of damage to the peanut crop may yet to be determined. It will vary from farmer to farmer and field to field. The major problem will be delays in returning to the field to harvest due to wet field conditions. Producers who planted early and peanuts were at or near optimum harvest time will have varying degrees of yield loss. Peanuts that have past maturity will have weakened stems and there is a greater chance they will be left in the ground during harvest. Likewise, producers who had disease problems will face the same problem. Growers tend to harvest problem fields early to reduce loss. Growers whose fields and vines are in good shape will experience the least impact. The issue they are facing is that wet field conditions will increase disease problems. They can neither harvest nor spray. Fields that were in good condition and dried fairly quickly should see minimum impact. An additional problem facing many producers is getting field back in condition for harvest. Damage to field road, trees and debris will cost time and add extra expense to this year's harvest.

Pecans - reported by Alabama Farmers Federation Horticulture Division Director Brian Hardin with assistance from David Tucker, Dr. Bill Goff and Monte Nesbitt of Auburn University, and other growers in Georgia and Florida.

Seventy percent of Alabama's pecan production is in Baldwin, Escambia, and Mobile counties with Baldwin and Mobile far and away the vast majority of that figure. Depending on the amount of damage, cleanup could cost $100-$1,500 per acre. When entire trees must be removed, the cost is approximately $150-$225 per tree, with trees per acre ranging from 6-48, or about 12 trees per acre average.

Replanting involves site preparation, planting, and care of trees during the establishment season. This cost is about $1, 080 per acre. Twenty percent of the state's trees were lost and that number climbs to 50 percent in Baldwin County and even higher on some farms.

Alabama's pecan crop was estimated at 10 million pounds for this year, with a value of about $1 per pound, or $10 million. Farmers lost an estimated 80 percent, or $8 million. With the 2002 Census of Agriculture acreage at 22,266 acres (and 1,402 farms), the per acre loss would average $360 per acre, but for growers with a good crop it is higher. Baldwin and Mobile Counties, among others, lost their entire crops.

Pecan trees require 12-15 years to regain full production after replanting. Assuming an annual per acre value of $800, and total loss for 8 years, the loss is $6,400 per acre. Partial loss in years 9-15 before the young trees reach full production would raise crop loss to about $8,000 per acre over 15 years. The losses would be considered catastrophic for many Alabama growers. Principle needs are help with clean up, replanting, and loss of current crop. This could be critical in salvaging the bulk of Alabama's pecan industry.

Greenhouse, Nursery and Sod -- reported by Alabama Farmers Federation Greenhouse, Nursery and Sod Division Director Brian Hardin

Losses of structures and plants were as high as 75 percent or more and some were at only 5 percent, so the dollar figures are hard to estimate at this time. Today, most growers are dealing with numbers in the lower percentages but are concerned it will increase a great deal. The biggest loss for sod farms is with center pivots, equipment, and facilities (reports of $100,000 to $2 million in damages).

Fruits and Vegetables -- reported by Alabama Farmers Federation Horticulture Division Director Brian Hardin

Minimal damage has been reported in Chilton County and to some coastal counties. Satsumas appear to have come through with minimal damage to the trees and fruit.

Catfish Industry -- reported by Alabama Farmers Federation Catfish Director Jimmy Carlisle

Major economic loss and devastation to the catfish industry was minimal due to the path Hurricane Ivan took through the state. Most of the heavy rains that passed over Alabama's catfish industry were in Wilcox and Dallas counties. Other catfish producing counties, Hale, Greene, Sumter, Perry, Marengo, Bibb did not experience major rainfall.

The majority of the fish farmers were concerned about being without power for an extended period of time. Although most catfish farms are equipped with some PTO tractor-driven aerators for emergency use, many do not have enough units to cover all of their water acres. Some electric paddle wheels attached to the pond banks were torn loose by bank erosion and high winds. Some aerators actually flipped over during the storm after coming loose. Many farmers who had power restored early loaned PTO-driven aerators and tractors to their neighbor. Most farmers say they have never lost fish due to oxygen depletion during periods of high winds, and there were no reports of fish loses.

One of the most significant long-term effect to the farmer will be that of pond bank erosion caused by high winds for an extended period of time. Those levees on the downwind side where all-weather access roads had been established for feeding and harvesting purposes will be the most costly. More sedimentation in the pond bottoms caused by high winds and bank erosion will cause farmers to go to the expense of renovating their ponds earlier. Most fish farmers had more damage caused by down trees and high winds, to fencing and outlying buildings and sheds.

Hay & Forage Crops -- Reported by Alabama Farmers Federation Hay & Forage Director Perry Mobley

There was some loss of hay due to heavy rainfall associated with Hurricane Ivan, but hay harvesting conditions have greatly improved and actually have been their best since the passing of the storm.

Dairy Industry -- reported by Alabama Farmers Federation Commodity Director and Dairy Director Jim Cravey

Alabama dairy farmers suffered damage to barns, buildings, fences and trees. However there was only a negligible amount of individual producer milk lost. There were some delays in milk pickup from farms, and the co-ops had to reroute some tankers.

The storms in Florida have wrecked havoc on milk hauling, handling and processing. As of last week, the Dairy Farmers of America's co-op had incurred over $600,000 in additional cost. It will be requesting an emergency Federal Order hearing to address these costs and get relief through the Marketing Order system. (No cost to government.) The Federation is supporting this request.

Timber Damage and Salvage Update -- reported by Alabama Farmers Federation Forestry Director Steve Guy

Based on preliminary reconnaissance data from Alabama Forestry Commission flights, approximately 200,000 acres of Alabama timberland were moderately to severely damaged by Hurricane Ivan. Moderate damage is defined as 20 percent to 50 percent of the timber stand being damaged with severe damage over 50 percent. The eight counties that were hardest hit include Baldwin, Butler, Clarke, Conecuh, Covington, Escambia, Monroe and Wilcox. Early estimates of the value of downed timber were placed in the $700 million range. Escambia County and parts of Monroe and Baldwin have not been mapped. A complete report should be available soon.

Steve Guy will be asked to serve on a task force created by Gov. Bob Riley that will work on salvage efforts. The first meeting will be Oct. 5. The task force will use a format for dealing with the salvage that South Carolina used after Hurricane Hugo. A Governors Emergency Proclamation also has been drafted to allow trucks to exceed normal axle weight limits to transport storm cleanup equipment and damaged timber. The maximum weight limit would be raised to 90,000 pounds.

Working with Keith Gray and Alabama's Congressional delegation in Washington, we were able to get a one-year extension on mandatory CRP thinning. We can ask for another extension next year if its is needed.

We also have asked U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions' office to investigate providing some Federal funding for a salvage incentive program to encourage loggers to salvage storm-damaged wood on private non-industrial forestland. We have asked for a $3 per ton incentive payment not to exceed $5,000 per contract. The payment would be channeled through the Alabama Forestry Commission for inspections and approval.

Finally, the Auburn University School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences has been asked to help gather research information relating to storm damaged wood and why its value drops. The information will be distributed to landowners to help them understand why the damaged wood is not as valuable as it was prior to the storm.

Poultry Industry -- reported by Alabama Farmers Federation Poultry Division Director Jimmy Carlisle

The poultry industry really avoided the devastation it could have experienced if the path of the hurricane had focused its destruction toward the southeast where most of the industry is located in Alabama. Most producers reported torn or loose tin on roofs, roofs that were lifted causing loose nails, torn curtains and loss of power. Most poultry farms that experienced loss of power should have had back up generators. The majority of poultry mortality occurred when generators failed for one reason or another, causing birds to smother. Still, total losses were light. Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) personal worked well with growers to approve proper dead bird disposal areas. Short-to-long term concerns that is hard to measure at this time would be bird performance - both layers and broilers - due to a disruption in water and feed.

The industry is reporting about 4 or 5 total houses lost and 40 to 50 houses with moderate damage and 800 with light damage. With Alfa Insurance having some 85 percent of the poultry houses insured in Alabama, more accurate damage assessment will be monitored as claims are recorded.

Like so many other farmers, poultry farmers had sheds, fencing and trees down.

Livestock -- reported by Alabama Farmers Federation Beef Division Director Perry Mobley

There was extensive and widespread damage of fences due to Hurricane Ivan. This damage was obviously most prevalent in the southern half of the state, but trees down on fences has been reported in basically every portion of the state. There was limited loss of life to livestock, but falling trees and collapsing structures killed some animals.

A major threat to all classes of livestock following a storm of this nature is access to poisonous plants that normally wouldn't be a problem. Producers should take proper precautions to limit livestock access to these types of plants.

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