Farmers facing heavy losses

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 30, 2004


That was the way National Weather Service meteorologist Randall Hatfield described the weather for the month of September. "It isn't all the time we have three hurricanes come through. Now that's unusual," Hatfield said. "Take out the hurricanes we would have had a dry month."

No kidding. Without those three hurricanes, September's precipitation would have amounted to three-tenths of an inch. Because of the hurricanes, rainfall totals through Wednesday totaled 8.95 inches. When slow-moving Hurricane Frances moved through the Tri-State Sept. 7 and 8, she brought 4.46 inches of rain. Ivan followed on her footsteps Sept. 16 and 17 and brought 4.1 inches of rain. Hurricane Jeanne contributed only a smattering of rain earlier this week and it was confined mainly to the mountains of West Virginia.

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This breaks the September rainfall record of 8.90 set in 1950. Normally, September precipitation totals less than 3 inches.

The rain has wreaked havoc for many farmers throughout the area. Crops such as soybeans, hay or corn that were standing in low-lying fields when the heavy rains hit were quickly underwater.

John Burcham, of Union Township watched as flood waters covered 30 acres of corn and 20-25 acres of hay he had planted in the field. Burcham said he will be forced to salvage what he can because he has to have it to feed his beef cattle. But he knows the quality of the corn will not be what it would have been if his fields had not been flooded.

"I just have to make do," he said. "That's the way farming is. I need about a half inch of water to knock the dirt off the corn. … The hay will recover if the dirt gets washed off."

For Burcham, the September flood was the second time this year that his crops were damaged by high water. In mid-May, high water washed over his fields and he had to replant 24 acres of corn.

"I don't think anyone has even seen it like this in September,"

Burcham's neighbor, Ed Pratt, said. "We've never had it this late. Usually in the spring we have it (high water)."

Pratt said he was more fortunate than some of his neighbors, because his fields are a little higher. "I don't see too much damage. We got off super lucky."

Jim Herrell, county executive director with the Gallia-Lawrence Farm Service Agency, said he his office has received phone calls from approximately 100 farmers in the two-county service area. Forty of those 100 farmers were Lawrence countians. He said it has been years since high water has been as damaging. And this time, the loss of crops to floods seemed to be especially cruel.

"In 1996 and '97 it was devastating but this time the crops were done and they were good, they just weren't harvested," Herrell said.

"This (good crop) gave people hope and then it was all taken away."