On Sept. 28, 2016, a storm system formed in the Windward Islands in the Atlantic Ocean that would later be known as Hurricane Matthew. The storm slowly creeped westward, claiming the lives of nearly 300 people in Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and the U.S. Four states of emergency were issued to Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina.
By the time Matthew made landfall on the southeastern U.S., it downgraded from a Category 5 to a Category 1 hurricane. The storm cut a swath of destruction through several states, hitting a section of the country trying to recover from six tropical storm systems this year.
Before Matthew hit, farmers like Todd Boyd were finishing up corn, getting their machines ready to start picking cotton and soybeans, eager to get the crops harvested. Boyd said the Pineville, N.C. area struggled, getting an additional 70 inches of rain above normal with several different systems.
“The cotton crop is flooded—it’s destroyed,” said Boyd. “We were counting on 2016 to be a better year to make up from last year.”
A few days short of a year before Matthew hit, Hurricane Joaquin caused South Carolina to experience historic flooding, dumping 20 inches of rain and destroying the cotton crop. Farmers were counting for an excellent year for cotton to make up for the heartbreaking losses.
“A lot of guys are scared because they don’t know what’s going to happen,” said Boyd. “This could put a lot of guys under. Crop insurance will help a little, but not enough to help.”
This sort of loss is familiar to Boyd. In 1971, Hurricane Ginger struck the U.S., flooding towns and destroying 3 million bushels of corn and 1 million bushels of soybeans. He said his father went bankrupt because of the storm.
“A lot of people have forgotten what that was like,” said Boyd. “There hasn’t been a major hurricane hit us since 1996.”
There’s a lot of uncertainty in the area when it comes to other crops like soybeans and peanuts. After Joaquin, Boyd said conditions stayed cloudy and rainy, causing moldy beans and lower yields. As for peanuts, a Mecklenburg County agent surveyed the damage shortly after the hurricane, estimating 60 to 80 percent losses.
In the latest USDA NASS Crop Progress Report, in cotton harvest in North Carolina is at 20 percent, seven points behind the 5-year average of 27 percent. Neighboring South Carolina is 10 points behind the average of 29 percent.
While Boyd doesn’t know what will happen in a devastating situation, he can only hope for the best.
“Farming is always a gamble with Mother Nature,” said Boyd. “Only time will tell.”