From the tractor
by Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler
Last month my column focused on the flooding that was taking place across many areas of Eastern North Carolina following Hurricane Matthew. Unfortunately this month, I find myself focused on yet another weather-related challenge to agriculture – the drought in the Western part of the state. It seems like we just can’t catch a break this year.
The drought is expected to tighten essential hay stocks and water supplies for cattle and horses. Adding to the concern, Hurricane Matthew likely took away any surplus hay that Eastern growers had that could have helped fill the void in the West.
Some farmers in Western North Carolina say the situation there is worse than in 2007. Many are already feeding hay to their livestock and have been for a while. That means the demand for hay will only increase as we get into winter.
For that reason, it is important to secure hay sooner versus later. It may seem like you still have plenty of time, but that likely isn’t the case. I strongly urge you not to wait until the barn is empty to try to restock.
If you haven’t already, I would suggest you contact your extension agent and make a winter feed plan now. Another good resource is the department’s Hay Alert website, which the article at the top of this page focuses on. The website provides an online forum to post ads for hay for sale or wanted. You can access it at www.ncagr.gov/hayalert.
It is important to note that the department hosts the website, but is not involved in transactions between buyers and sellers.
I continue to hear from farmers across the state who are struggling with these challenges. For some, this marks back-to-back seasons of poor production. I know a single bad year is difficult to bounce back from, and two is even harder.
We do not have any overall totals on agricultural losses, but no doubt it will be significant as the flooding that followed Hurricane Matthew impacted a lot of our top agricultural counties.
We know we had some poultry and hog losses following the hurricane, including 1.8 million poultry and 2,800 hogs. I believe these losses would have been higher were it not for the preparations swine and poultry producers took before the storm.
We will continue to monitor both the hurricane recovery efforts and the ongoing drought in the West.
As of press time, fire crews with our N.C. Forest Service are continuing to battle wildfires in Western N.C. that have burned thousands of acres of forestlands. The U.S. Forest Service is also battling fires on federal lands in those areas. We are grateful for the assistance from other fire department crews as well, because the dry conditions from the drought are making a difficult situation even more difficult.
I remain proud of the work of our department, and I am proud of the resilience of our farm community in spite of these bumps and bruises. As this year comes to a close, I pray that Mother Nature is kinder in 2017.