Hurricane Florence caused estimated livestock losses of 3.4 million poultry and an estimate of 5,500 hogs, according to the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (NCDA&CS). Estimates on crop losses are not available. “This was an unprecedented storm with flooding expected to exceed that from any other storms in recent memory,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler, who conducted an aerial survey of damage on Tuesday. “We know agricultural losses will be significant because the flooding has affected the top six agricultural counties in our state. The footprint of flooding from this storm covers much of the same area hit by flooding from Hurricane Matthew in 2016, which only worsens the burden on these farmers.”
NCDA&CS is dispatching inspectors and field forces to begin assessing damage to the state’s agriculture industry and to ensure food is safe for consumers. But inspectors are waiting for flood waters to recede to safe levels before making site visits. In the meantime, they are contacting firms to determine which areas will be prioritized.
NCDA&CS programs and post-hurricane efforts include:
- Emergency Programs has activated an Incident Management Team while coordinating with the State Emergency Operations Center and staffing the Ag Emergency Hotline number, 1-866-645-9403, to coordinate disaster response.
- Agronomists are making calls to find out the extent of crop damage in their areas. They will get out and start making site visits when it is safe to do so.
- The Veterinary Division is working with livestock and poultry producers to assess risk to livestock operations. We have depopulation teams on standby and are assisting growers with disposal concerns.
- The Environmental Programs and Division of Soil and Water Conservation staff are assisting livestock and poultry farmers with recovery to ensure environmental impacts are minimized to the extent possible.
- The Veterinary Division is also working with animal shelters, animal control and animal organizations to ensure that companion animals are looked after. We are helping to coordinate needs for co-located shelters and consulting on animal issues.
- The Food Distribution Division has sent many truckloads of food to assist in disaster relief efforts. USDA food has been delivered in Little Washington, Goldsboro, Kinston and New Bern.
- Food and Drug inspectors are reaching out to grocery stores and other outlets. They will be visiting stores in places where there have been prolonged power outages or flooding when it is safe to do so.
- Meat and Poultry Division inspectors will be visiting processing plants to ensure they are safe to begin operating again. Inspectors will also ensure any meat or poultry products at processing plants that became temperature compromised or otherwise unsafe to eat because of the storm do not enter the public food supply.
- Standards Division inspectors will respond to consumer complaints and requests by stations to visit gas stations to ensure that water didn’t get into the gas holding tanks, which will ruin a car’s engine.
- The Southeastern Ag Events Center in Lumberton is being used as an emergency shelter as well as staging grounds for Duke Power, FEMA, National Guard and other emergency response groups.
- The Structural Pest Control and Pesticides Division has a Pesticide Disposal Assistance Program that can aid farmers and homeowners with safely disposing of flooded pesticides.
- The N.C. State Fair serves as an evacuation area for horses. Currently, 12 horses have been relocated to the fairgrounds. The fairgrounds also served as a temporary relocation area for companion animals from Carteret County, these animals have been moved to other rescue groups.
- The N.C. Forest Service is assisting in several areas. More than 230 forest service staff are involved with rescue and recovery efforts. Additional forest service staff are also engaged in assisting their local county emergency response.
Photo: A satellite image of Hurricane Florence shows the storm off the coast of North Carolina. (U.S. Air Force Photo)