Below is some information that Dr. Adam N. Rabinowitz, Assistant Professor and Extension Economist at UGA CAES, has put together on disaster assistance:
Last week Hurricane Michael ripped through the heart of Georgia agriculture, devastating the southwest region and destroying a significant amount of our farmers’ hard work. While government programs can never fully replace the loss, there are a number of resources that are available to help farmers recover from disasters. Some general tips and good practices include:
- Collect documentation! Prior to starting any cleanup activity, make sure to take pictures of damage and losses that have occurred.
- If you have crop insurance, contact your crop insurance agent to report losses or damages. It is important to do this before starting any cleanup activities so that everything can be documented properly. Furthermore, farmers need to notify their crop insurance agent within 72 hours of discovery of a loss. Beyond that, farmers should make sure that a signed written notice is provided within 15 days of the loss.
- If you have noninsured crop disaster assistance or are eligible for other disaster assistance programs, contact the local Farm Service Agency (FSA) office. It is important to do this before starting any cleanup activities so that everything can be documented properly and a waiver can be issued prior to cleanup.
Important Disaster Resources
The USDA has a disaster website for Hurricane Michael that can be accessed at: https://www.usda.gov/topics/disaster/storms. At that link there is information on Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and other disaster programs. There is also a more direct resource related to agriculture that can be accessed at: https://www.farmers.gov/recover. Some of the disaster assistance programs potentially applicable to hurricane losses include:
- Crop Insurance – provides financial assistance to producers of insurable crops to protect against natural disasters that impact revenue or yield, depending on the coverage selected. Producers must be enrolled in this program prior to a loss occurring. Access fact sheets here: https://www.rma.usda.gov/Topics/National-Fact-Sheets
- Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program – provides financial assistance to producers of noninsurable crops to protect against natural disasters that result in lower yields or crop losses. Producers must be enrolled in this program prior to a loss occurring. Access fact sheet here: https://www.fsa.usda.gov/Assets/USDA-FSA-Public/usdafiles/FactSheets/2017/nap_for_2015_and_subsequent_years_oct2017.pdf
- Tree Assistance Program – provides financial assistance to eligible orchardists and nursery tree growers to replant or rehabilitate eligible trees, bushes, and vines lost by natural disasters. Access fact sheet here: https://www.fsa.usda.gov/Assets/USDA-FSA-Public/usdafiles/FactSheets/2018/tap_fact_sheet_may_2018.pdf
- Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees, and Farm-raised Fish – provides financial assistance to eligible producers of livestock, honeybees, and farm-raised fish for losses due to natural disasters. Losses under this program may not be covered under other disaster assistance programs that are part of the 2014 Farm Bill. Access fact sheet here: https://www.fsa.usda.gov/Assets/USDA-FSA-Public/usdafiles/FactSheets/2018/elap_fact_sheet_april2018.pdf
- Livestock Indemnity Program – provides assistance to eligible livestock owners or contract growers for livestock deaths in excess of normal mortality caused by eligible loss conditions including hurricanes. Access fact sheet here: https://www.fsa.usda.gov/Assets/USDA-FSA-Public/usdafiles/FactSheets/2018/livestock_indemnity_program_fact_sheet-may_2018.pdf
- Emergency Conservation Program – provides funding and technical assistance to rehabilitate farmland damaged by natural disasters. Access fact sheet here: https://www.fsa.usda.gov/Assets/USDA-FSA-Public/usdafiles/FactSheets/2017/emergency_conservation_program_oct2017.pdf
- Emergency Forest Restoration Program – provides payments to eligible owners of nonindustrial private forest land (timber) to carry out emergency measures to restore land damaged by a natural disaster. Access fact sheet here: https://www.fsa.usda.gov/Assets/USDA-FSA-Public/usdafiles/FactSheets/2017/emergency_forest_restoration_program_oct2017.pdf
- Emergency Watershed Protection Program – provides technical and financial assistance to help local communities relieve imminent threats to life and property caused by natural disasters that impair a watershed. Access information here: https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/national/programs/landscape/ewpp/
- Emergency Loan Program – provides emergency loans to help producers recover from production and physical losses due to natural disasters. Access fact sheet here: https://www.fsa.usda.gov/Assets/USDA-FSA-Public/usdafiles/FactSheets/2017/emergency_loan_program_oct2017.pdf
- Disaster Set-Aside Program – provides eligible FSA borrowers in a designated disaster area the ability to set-aside payment to allow the operation to continue. Access fact sheet here: https://www.fsa.usda.gov/Assets/USDA-FSA-Public/usdafiles/FactSheets/2017/disaster_set_aside_program_oct2017.pdf
More information about each of these programs can be found at the above websites. In addition, there have been some specific disaster related questions which are answered below.
- What is the next step(s) after receiving crop damage? (reporting claims, documentation, etc.)
Depending on the program, contact either your crop insurance agent or local FSA office. Make sure to take pictures of the damage and do not burn any debris. An adjuster or FSA representative will need to survey the damage, thus it is important to wait before starting any cleanup until this has happened or permission to cleanup has been granted.
Keep in mind certain crop insurance deadlines. Notice to your crop insurance agent must occur before abandoning a crop within 72 hours of a loss. A written notice needs to be signed within 15 days of loss.
In addition to documenting the damage and loss, keep track of expenses related to cleanup. It is advisable to keep records of all activities related to the disaster.
- Do farmers have to pick the crop (in certain situations)? (requesting an appraisal, pros/cons of picking vs. taking the appraisal)
This is a difficult question that depends on individual circumstances. Some issues that need to be considered is whether there is any salvage value of the crop and the quality of anything that can still be harvested. If it is a good crop then it should be harvested. The farmers crop insurance agent can help make a determination of how to proceed.
- If you don’t pick the crop, how bad will it hurt the established yield?
If there is crop available to pick and you choose not to, then it will count against the loss.
- What if a farmer has an FSA loan on a structure that was damaged?
Contact the local FSA office immediately to report this damage.
- What additional disaster relief may become available and when?
After many natural disasters that result in widespread damage there are often additional programs that become available to aid with agricultural losses. This, however, is not guaranteed and it does take time before they are available as they require a special appropriation from the U.S. Congress and signature of the President. One such example is the 2017 Wildfires and Hurricanes Indemnity Program (WHIP) that covered losses from Hurricane Irma that caused widespread damage in September 2017. Allocation for that program was not made until February 9, 2018 as part of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018. Sign up for that program did not begin until July 16, 2018.
While a special allocation may not be immediately available, it is important to document losses and to communicate to your legislators in a way that illustrates the impact that Hurricane Michael has had on your farming operation. This information will help drive policy decisions and additional allocations that may become available.
The information provided in this document is not a specific recommendation. Producers should make disaster assistance decisions in consultation with their crop insurance agent, local Farm Service Agency or other government entity responsible for program administration.
Our Forestry Update that was previously scheduled for this Wednesday, October 10 has been canceled. Once we have set a new date for this meeting we will distribute that information. The new date will likely be this December.
Below are Dr. Kemerait’s comments on the weather conditions concerning row crops:
“There is the obvious damage that wind and rain will bring, especially to the cotton crop- lodging cotton and putting lint on the ground. For cotton not yet ready to pick, the weather could increase boll rot, though there is really nothing we can do about that.
For peanuts, the question is timing of digging. It is my opinion that if the vines and pegs are healthy and not too much defoliation from leaf spot or damage from white mold is present, then it is better to leave the peanuts in the ground and to dig them after the storm passes.
If the peanuts are severely affected by leaf spot disease (significant defoliation) or disease (white mold) and the potential for yield loss is severe if they must stay in the ground into next week, then I would consider digging them.
If the crop is already behind in being dug (past harvest maturity) or the soil is “heavy” and digging may be delayed considerably, then I would also think about digging them.
Where peanuts are two or more weeks away from projected digging date, growers should consider whether a final fungicide application for management of leaf spot is needed.”
Pam Knox, UGA CAES Agricultural Climateologist suggests following updates from the National Hurricane Center at http://www.nhc.noaa.gov. Wind is of the main concern and will reach speeds high enough to cause a lot of damage to crops, trees, and power lines. Isolated tornadoes could also occur. She also suggests moving livestock and equipment from low lying areas. Conditions are expected to be worse than Hermine in 2016 so if generators are needed they should be prepared for use. Power outages could last for several days.
Photo courtesy of: Joseph LaForest, University of Georgia, Bugwood.org
Here’s some information from Dr. Phillip Roberts, UGA Extension Cotton Entomologist:
Silverleaf whitefly (SLWF) adults have been observed in low numbers in cotton. To date very few immature whiteflies have been observed in cotton. We are not aware of any field which has exceeded threshold for SLWF. Most reports include observations of individuals or a few adults when searching plants for corn earworm. However, the presence of SLWF in a field is worth noting and management of all insect pests must consider the presence of SLWF. All efforts should be made to minimize the need to treat SLWF with insecticide.
- Scout for the presence of SLWF adults. It is important to know if SLWF is present!
- Conserve beneficial insects, do not apply insecticides for any pests unless thresholds are exceeded (beneficial insects will also suppress corn earworm).
- If SLWF is present in a field, avoid use of insecticides for other pests which are prone to flare SLWF.
- Scout fields frequently for adults and immatures once fields are infested with SLWF.
- Be timely with SLWF insecticides when thresholds are exceeded (many learned in 2017 that it is difficult to play catchup with SLWF).
- Be very aware of SLWF infestations in hairy leaf varieties and late planted cotton, these are high risk fields.
There is no question that agents, scouts, consultants, and growers are looking more closely for SLWF this year based on the problems we had in 2017. Historically if we see SLWF in cotton during the month of July we should anticipate problems with SLWF, especially on late planted fields, and manage appropriately. Infestations do not come close to where we were a year ago. In 2017 treatable populations first occurred during the last week of June and many acres were treated in July; so we are in a much better situation this year compared to last. It will be important that all fields are monitored closely for SLWF and hopefully proper proactive management can minimize damage and the need for SLWF insecticides.
Photo credit: Jason Brock, University of Georgia, Bugwood.org
Target spot has been observed throughout South Georgia and is known to cause the most issues in fields with rank growth. Growers with a crop between the first week of bloom and the sixth week of bloom may consider protecting their crop with a fungicide. However, not every grower will benefit from this application and should scout fields prior to making this management decision. This disease is characterized by leaf spots with concentric rings (shown above). Defoliation begins at the lower leaves and progresses up the stalk. Conditions are favorable for the disease and early detection is critical. Once defoliation has reached more that 25% a fungicide application may no longer be feasible.
We were very fortunate in Thomas County since the eye passed east of us. Our winds were in the 40s with gusts in the 70s. There is still obvious damage to our field crops. Here are some pictures of what we have now:
The only negative effect will be altering our digging time, if the field needed to be dug in that time period. We had some peanuts already inverted, but they are drying and will be picked this week. The soil is drying with a few days of sunny weather.
It’s about 50/50 with wind damaged fields. Where wind hit hard, cotton is all tangled up. And any bolls/lint that fell off the plant is for sure lost. This is going to affect us on our picking efficiency and spraying. UGA Extension Cotton Agronomist Dr. Jared Whitaker says, “One thing to consider is that cotton that is just beginning to open is the heaviest it will be throughout its life and when opening proceeds, it will allow the plant to stand up. However, one thing that I’ve seen that I haven’t in the past with blown over cotton is the “rooting out” around the stem at the ground level due to winds from several different directions. This could complicate the issue of cotton standing up and exacerbate the issue of standing up.”
There is more damage to younger cotton that will not be known at this time. Right now, you see a lot of reddening of the plant at the top. This is from stress, but multiple factors can cause this stress. We looked a blown over field today where it was obvious whiteflies were not treated. You will also notice stemphyllium leaf spot this time of year with loss of potassium. But the wind can also cause this symptom, and will hurt cotton in providing energy to those bolls.
UGA Extension Horticulturalist Dr. Lenny Wells’ preliminary estimate is that about 30% of the state’s total pecan crop has been lost. This has become the most damaging wind event ever seen by the Georgia pecan industry. Again, most of the damage east and north of us. In Thomas County, we are a little under that 30% based on what I am seeing.
Growers should take photos of their damage and report it to their local FSA office in order to receive financial assistance with cleanup. Cleanup funds normally pay 75% of the USDA-set cost of a mature tree ($300) up to a maximum of $200,000 per entity. Younger trees will be valued at varying levels depending upon age. In addition, the Tree Assistance Program (TAP) will pay for tree loss when 15% or more of the orchard is destroyed. This pays 65% of the cost of the tree up to a maximum of $120,000 per entity.
This money is not available immediately but your FSA office will gather your report. Requests for cleanup funds are made to Congress and they will then appropriate the funds so it may take a while.
Growers have many questions regarding how to handle fallen trees and the mass of green nuts blown from the trees. The success of righting blown down trees varies considerably with age of the tree. Trees less than 8-10 years old (trunk diameter < about 10 inches) can generally be righted with pretty good success, if leaning less than 45 degrees. Success rate is highly variable when leaning more than 45 degrees. Success of righting these trees will be much greater when trees are pruned back as if they were to be transplanted with a tree spade because the newly-limited root system must be able to support the tree that remains. The larger the tree, the more you should prune off when righting.
Uprooted trees or those lying flat on the ground should be removed, especially large, mature trees. Such trees often never perform as they should and will be likely to be blown down again at a later date. Uprooted trees usually exhibit visible broken roots on the side opposite of the direction of fall. The major roots on the opposite side of the tree are also generally broken as well. Such trees usually have much more root damage than is apparent.
I’ve had many questions about salvaging the green nuts blown onto the ground and having them de-shucked. In most cases, the expense involved in this will outweigh the benefit. While there are a significant number of nuts on the ground, in most cases, the volume will be less than most growers think. Pawnee shucks were splitting or open and many of these nuts came out of the shuck and are on the ground. Many would have been ready for harvest this week so these nuts can be salvaged once the debris is cleaned up. Early October harvest nuts like Caddo, Oconee, Elliott, Moneymaker etc. may be far enough along to attempt de-shucking if growers are inclined to do so. However, they need to bear in mind the cost of an additional harvest, transport, cleaning, and de-shucking when making this decision. Later varieties like Desirable, Stuart, Cape Fear, Sumner,. etc. are likely not mature enough for de-shucking even though the kernels may be filled out. If the nut does not pop out of the shuck when stepped on or rolled with your foot or if the shell is still white and the markings have not developed growers should not attempt de-shucking.
There is potential for further damage to appear at a later date from nuts getting knocked around in the storm. This often bruises or damages the shuck and affects development or maturity of the nut and may lead to stick-tights. However, my early observations are that this bruising is minimal. I do not see a lot of bruising as of yet on the shucks so I am hopeful but it is still a bit early to tell whether or not we will escape this type of damage.
All in all, the Georgia pecan industry has suffered a significant blow but it could have been much worse than it is given the severity of the storm.