During a hurricane warning, there is a lot of talk about evacuation and how to be safe, which is the right thing to discuss during a storm watch. There usually is not much talk about what the storm does to a farmer’s crop that might be almost ready to harvest. There are people who believe that water is great for all crops, and that is true, but when the field turns into a lake, the crops have a small chance of survival.
For those tomato growers out there, we know tomato plants love sun and lots of it. They love water, but not too much or the leaves turn yellow and the fruit splits. For many plants, this holds true. Towards the beginning of September, however, when hurricane season really starts kicking in, tomatoes are not really the problem plant as they have mostly been harvested for the season.
Cotton is a really big problem, however. Wind and heavy rain damage the roots to cotton plants, making them more likely to lean, wilt, and slow down the overall growth of the plant, also reducing seeds for next year’s crops. Farmers are warned against harvesting wet cotton from their fields; they must wait 7-10 days until the plant has completely dried. If the cotton is damp during the harvesting process, it must not be stored but should immediately go through another process called the “ginning process” which separates and cleans the cotton. Cotton cannot be stored while damp or it will mildew.
Rice is a grain grown in wet areas–you can envision the Chinese workers out in their wet rice fields–we see that on television all of the time. Rice, too, can be affected by a hurricane. When Hurricane Gustav came through back in August 2008, it hit an area of the U.S. with a large rice production. High winds bend the stalks and knocks off the grains off of the heads. If the ground is flooded beyond the capacity of machinery being capable of harvesting the plants, or the plants are submerged completely, these crops are lost. Most farmers can harvest in wet fields but not when the water is deep. If the crop is wet when harvested, it then has to be dried out, and without electricity (from the storm), the crops cannot be dried quickly enough.
Occasionally the USDA will grant disaster aid to the farmers affected by these storms, however, the farmer must be within the eligibility requirements, and most of these are low interest emergency loans, not grants. It doesn’t quite seem fair to me.
When the weather gets bad, please remember our food chain might also be affected by these storms. Prices will raise because supply goes down, and our farmers will be taking out loans to help with their own losses. Again, it doesn’t quite seem fair to me.