09/11/17 — Irma still poses threat to local harvest

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Irma still poses threat to local harvest

By Steve Herring
Published in News on September 11, 2017 5:50 AM

A rapidly ripening crop had Wayne County tobacco farmers speeding up their harvest even before the threat posed by Hurricane Irma.

But the looming storm could mean that the tobacco and corn harvest could move into an even higher gear, said Kevin Johnson, Wayne County Extension Service director.

While Hurricane Irma's storm track shifted farther west than initially anticipated, meteorologists are predicting that portions of the state could experience wind and rain from the tropical system as early as Monday.

The limiting factor for the tobacco crop is availability of curing barns.

Countywide, the tobacco harvest is about halfway through, while the corn harvest is even further along.

Johnson said he would not be surprised to see farmers harvesting corn at night.

As for farmers with both corn and tobacco, they will have to prioritize, and the top priority probably would be tobacco.

The recent and at times heavy rains slowed farmers some, but overall have not really kept them out of the fields, he said.

Farmers, particularly those with swine and poultry operations, are checking their generators and fuel supplies. Also companies are working to ensure there will be a sufficient feed supply as well as a way to get it to the farms, Johnson said.

Johnson said he was glad to see Gov. Roy Cooper declare a State of Emergency for all 100 counties.

The declaration was effective at 8 a.m. Thursday in order to facilitate the movement of any resources that may be needed to respond to the storm.

It also waives truck weight, size and hours of service restrictions so that vehicles carrying essential supplies such as food, medicine, fuel or transporting livestock or crops can get their jobs done quickly.

Johnson called the waiver a good faith effort by the state to show that it is trying to look after farmers.

The farm community will not abuse the waivers, he said.

After all, he said, a truck can only carry so much.

The waiver means that a farmer's efforts to protect his livelihood would not be threatened just because a truck might be overloaded.

"Hurricane Irma is a formidable storm that could result in severe economic loss of livestock, poultry and crops in our state," Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler said. "At my recommendation, and as allowed by state law, the governor has directed the Department of Public Safety to temporarily suspend weighing vehicles used to transport livestock, poultry, feed and crops in the state."

The executive order will allow farmers the opportunity to harvest as much of their crops as possible before the storm hits.

The order also will help ensure that livestock, poultry, crops and feed can be moved as necessary, he said.

The order also temporarily suspends the maximum hours of service for drivers.

"In addition to the waiving of motor vehicle regulations, our department is temporarily suspending health certificate requirements on livestock traveling through the state from areas in Hurricane Irma's path," Troxler said.

"I urge everyone to prepare for this storm. Check your generators, fuel and emergency kits. We don't know what impact this storm will have yet on our state. But we do know that preparation saves lives and protects property."