From pork to tobacco, farms are in the ‘bull’s-eye’ of Hurricane Florence

Livestock and crop producers in the Carolinas are bracing for the arrival of Hurricane Florence, which could pound the region with destructive rain, flooding and wind and cause losses in the millions.

Growers of corn and tobacco in North Carolina and South Carolina were rushing to harvest the crops ahead of the menacing storm, which is expected to worsen Thursday and into Friday.

Poultry houses were preparing for the hurricane by stocking up on gas to run generators as well as bringing in extra feed to ride out the storm.

Nearly 10 million hogs are raised in North Carolina, and the state ranks second in production. Producers were taking steps to prepare for the storm, given that flooding could cause the overflow of hog manure lagoons.

“If it does the damage that it could do, talking from 20 to 30 inches of rain, and if the storm hovers … you could see the loss of livestock and poultry in the millions,” said Dan Kowalski, vice president of the Knowledge Exchange division at Denver-based CoBank, a major lender to agribusiness. “You have a lot of high-dollar crops that are still out there.”

As of 5 p.m. EDT Wednesday, Florence is about 385 miles southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina, with winds estimated at 120 mph, making it a Category 3 hurricane, according to the National Weather Service.

“Although slow weakening is expected to begin by late Thursday, Florence is forecast to be an extremely dangerous major hurricane when it nears the U.S. coast late Thursday and Friday,” NWS said. It warned of “life-threatening storm surge” and dangerous flooding and said “damaging hurricane force winds are likely,” particularly along the coast as well as locations further inland.

North Carolina officials said tens of thousands of structures could be flooded, based on modeling from the storm. There also were preparations in South Carolina underway given the risk of widespread flooding and tropical storm force winds of up to 73 miles per hour in parts of the Midlands region of the state.