The winter of my sophomore year in high school was brutal for our farm. One snowy morning on the cusp of spring, Mom and I pulled an old wooden sled through our pastures and into the woods along the creek, hunting for mama cows that had just given birth. We found three calves. Each time, we loaded them on the sled and pulled them back up the hill to our house. Once there, Mom and I used rags to rub down the babies and then put them in front of the small gas heater in our kitchen to warm them. Two of the three lived. Ultimately, with the heavy, late-winter snows, there were other calves we didn’t find and the loss was a significant financial hit for us.
As unfortunate as that loss of calves was to my family, it amounted to little compared with the losses many of our farmer friends have experienced in the past year or two. Most recently, farmers up and down the Atlantic Seaboard and the Gulf Coast have been hammered by hurricanes, first by Florence and then by Michael. Final damages are still being tallied for each, but reports indicate the cost of Hurricane Florence will exceed $1.1 billion in damage to crops and livestock in North Carolina alone.
Farmers are by nature a resilient bunch, but ongoing low commodity prices are making hard experiences with Mother Nature even harder. It’s why Scott Marlow tells farmers to document losses when bad storms strike. While some government programs are readily accessible to farmers when disaster occurs, he says sometimes programs are put into effect a year or two later. But farmers who haven’t documented their losses in writing and with pictures are often unable to participate in them, notes Marlow, senior policy specialist for the Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA (RAFI).
RAFI makes two additional recommendations when dealing with crop and/or livestock losses:
- Communicate early and often. Call your Farm Service Agency office to report any losses or damages. Do this early on and check back in with them throughout the recovery process.
- Keep a running log of what was discussed during every conversation with agency contacts. This creates a valuable, third-party record of your recovery efforts that might be used at some point as documentation for assistance programs.