From the tractor
by Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler
Mother Nature is one of the most unpredictable forces, maybe even the most unpredictable. And when her powerful energy takes shape as a hurricane or tornado, the results are often catastrophic and deadly, as we witnessed in mid-April when tornados rolled across the state randomly tearing apart homes, uprooting businesses and leaving holes in families.
My sympathies go out to those families who lost loved ones in the tornados. Homes, businesses, struc-tures, equipment and things can all be replaced, but for those who lost family and friends, their losses are permanent.
Shortly after the storms, I toured areas of the state looking at agricultural damage and talking to farmers about their immediate and long-term needs. Without doubt, there are lots of needs. For many of the farms hit, the tornados were life-changing events. A lifetime of work was lost in just minutes under the brutal assault of these storms. (View photos of storm damage)
Many times in North Carolina when we talk about agricultural storm damage, we are talking about the loss of crops and livestock. These storms were different because they happened so early in the season. This is planting time, so many crops were just planted or would soon be going in the ground. A few crops did sustain some hail damage and there were also some livestock losses, but not as widespread as we have seen in the past with some late-season hurricanes.
Instead, growers lost curing barns, greenhouses equipment, storage buildings, poultry houses and homes.
I saw bulk barns in Lee County that were tossed around like matchboxes and I saw steel beams set in 2 or more feet of concrete that were ripped from the ground like new seedlings. I also saw large greenhouses flattened, cotton pickers tossed around like toy cars and debris strewn across acre after acre of farmland.
The difficult part for these farmers is that they need their equipment now to get seeds and plants in the field. And down the road they will need to replace sprayers, curing barns and harvesting equipment as crops near harvest time.
This is not the first time farmers have faced this type of adversity and I hate to say it, but I am sure it won't be the last time either. Farmers and the agricultural community as a whole are resilient and they will bounce back from this as well.
Because so many farmers suffered so much equipment damage, if anyone has extra equipment that they may be willing to share with farmers in need, please go to our website and let us know. We will try to help match folks with needs with people who may have resources available to share.
Over the next few weeks, we will continue to assess the damages and losses, and will work to help farmers in any way we can. We will make farmers aware of any federal assistance available, and we are also planning to help seek volunteers to help with debris removal, particularly in fields.
Information is still coming together as of press time, so please go to www.ncagr.gov/agtap to find resources or to see if you can help a neighbor in need.