Initial reports of Hurricane Florence’s impact on the agriculture industry reveal the storm has resulted in livestock and crop losses.
Sanderson Farms reported Sept. 18 that approximately 1.7 million head out of an average live inventory of approximately 20 million head broiler chickens have been lost due to flooding. Approximately 30 farms, housing approximately 211,000 chickens per farm, in the Lumberton, N.C., area also are currently isolated by flood waters, and the company is unable to reach those farms with feed trucks. Losses of live inventory could escalate if access to those farms is not regained soon, the company said.
“Out of 880 broiler houses in North Carolina, 60 have flooded. Another six houses experienced damage and will be unable to house broilers until repairs are made. In addition to the affected broiler houses, four breeder houses out of a total of 92 in North Carolina flooded. At this point, none of the company’s 33 pullet houses have reported serious damage,” the company reported.
In addition to the loss of live birds, the company reported that it will be unable to hatch and place live broilers in the field at its normal rate during the coming week.
“While the company maintained operations at its hatcheries, the company was unable to set eggs in hatcheries on its normal schedule. The reduced egg sets and chick placements will affect the company’s weekly processing volumes through December, with the reductions occurring primarily during October and November.”
The company said it has resumed operations at its feed mill located in Kinston, N.C. However, it said many roadways in North Carolina remain impassable, serious flooding continues and local streams and rivers are expected to crest later this week. The company also expected to resume operations at its Kinston processing plant on Tuesday, and at its St. Pauls, N.C., processing plant by the end of this week.
Joe Sanderson, Jr., chairman and chief executive officer of Sanderson Farms, commented, “I am relieved that it appears the company’s employees and independent contract producers experienced no loss of life or serious injuries. The magnitude of this storm and the damage it has caused continue to be widespread, and I am pleased that our people remain safe.”
Sanderson continued, “I am also pleased that our assets were not significantly damaged by the hurricane. While the storm’s impact on our live inventories and live production process will have an impact on the company’s capacity and volume over the next two months, none of the losses sustained will be long term.”
He said the impact on volume from our live losses will be spread over three months, although inefficiencies resulting from bird stress, overtime pay and loss of processing days will affect the company’s fourth fiscal quarter. “Our focus over the next few weeks will include working to maintain our assets, responding to customers’ needs and replenishing our live production inventories,” said Sanderson.
In regard to the status of hog lagoons in the state, the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality reported Sept. 18 that two lagoons have been breached, with another two reporting structural damage. Thirteen lagoons have over-topped, while nine have been inundated.
One of the inundated lagoons was a Smithfield Foods Inc. operation, the company reported Tuesday. But, out of more-than 200 company-owned farms in North Carolina, the company said only that one operation had its hog houses and lagoon inundated by floodwaters.
The company said employees continue to work around the clock to provide care to animals and assess the impact of Hurricane Florence to the company’s farms and operations in North Carolina. “The storm has caused historic flooding across the state. We are thankful that none of our employee have reported any serious injuries or loss of life.”
The company said its processing facilities in the state have reported no major damage and are running again at limited capacity. “We will continue to ramp up to full production as roads become passable. For now, however, we are focused on recovery efforts, our people, and caring for our animals.”
Keira Lombardo, Smithfield Foods senior vice president of corporate affairs, commented, “Our hearts go out to those affected by Hurricane Florence, including many members of our Smithfield Family in North Carolina. We are tremendously grateful for the safety and well-being of our employees and their tireless efforts to ensure care for our animals. While some of our farms did experience damage, the impact was relatively minor considering the extreme severity of the storm and our expansive footprint in the state.”
The North Carolina Pork Council (NCPC) said in an update that the historic flooding in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence has continued to cause widespread impacts across eastern North Carolina, including affecting hog farms.However, NCPC does not believe, based on on-farm assessments to date and industry-wide surveying, that there are widespread impacts to the more than 2,100 farms with more than 3,300 anaerobic treatment lagoons in the state.
Still, significant efforts continue in order to provide feed and care for animals and to ensure safety for farm families and employees.
“Waters from the record-shattering storm are rising in some places and receding in others, and we expect additional impacts to be reported as conditions and access allows,” NCPC said.
In South Carolina, agriculture commissioner Hugh Weathers reported his agency is hearing what they expected to hear.
“Just as expected, based on the timing of the crop, we think cotton farmers will suffer the greatest impact,” he said, explaining that the crop is in the stage when the boll has opened. As such, sustained wind and then moisture made the cotton so heavy that it fell to the ground. Still, Weathers said some farmers had to plant late because of cold, wet spring, which means the plant could be in an earlier stage.
According to Weathers, peanuts don’t suffer much from wind but some damage may occur depending upon just how long the rain and the water on the fields keep the harvesting equipment from the field. “When they’re ready, they are ready,” he said, adding that quality may suffer if the crop has to stay in the fields.
The state’s new hemp crop has literally blown over, he reported, adding that the question is whether it can be harvested.
As for livestock operations, he said they are trying to assess the impact. “We are mindful that when the feed bin runs out, feed has got to get there one way or another, so we are working on some of those things now.”
Weathers added, “Unfortunately, we’ve been through this before. We sort of have a mental checklist that we go through, assess and address.”