As Mona Barfield inspects the hurricane damage to her family’s multi-generational pecan farm south of Fairhope, she stops to wonder how much longer Baldwin County farmers will continue producing Alabama’s official state nut. Hurricane Sally provided a devastating gut punch to the coastal farmers: Hundreds of pecan trees are destroyed and this year’s crop in Baldwin County, which is the state’s No. 1 producer of the nut, is gone.
Almost seven months after Hurricane Michael, Georgia pecan growers are still picking up the shells. Industry leaders expect the upcoming season to see the lowest production in years. With new numbers continuing to come in, agriculture experts say the hurricane wiped out about half of last year's expected harvest.
Pecans and pecan pie should be as tasty as usual for Georgians this holiday season. But behind the scenes, Georgia’s pecan farming business has been clobbered, and the beatdown isn’t over for one of the state’s biggest crops. Pecan prices have plummeted by at least a third for local farmers. Much of the state’s crop, once the largest in the nation, is in the mud, or worse. And some of the trouble will last years for a branch of farming that already demanded extra patience.
Irma’s destructive path blew through Georgia’s pecan crop, but the destruction could have been much worse. All orchards experienced some damage from the storm that moved through Georgia on Monday, Sept. 11. Nuts were blown out of trees, limbs were broken and at least a few trees fell in most orchards. Multiple growers in Georgia’s Peach and Berrien counties lost thousands of trees. The storm knocked immature pecans to the ground, and Wells believes approximately 30 percent of this year’s crop was lost.
Damage, lost production to have big economic impact across the state Hurricane Matthew toppled thousands of mature pecan trees in South Georgia, while damaging cotton and peanut crops to a lesser degree, and farmers are working hard to assess damage from the storm and determine if they will be eligible for federal assistance. Damage varies from place to place, but, “I haven’t been by a single (pecan) orchard that doesn’t have some big trees down,” said Bill Tyson, Bulloch County extension agent.
Georgia’s top agriculture official says Hurricane Matthew hit the state’s pecan and cotton farmers hard. Georgia Commissioner of Agriculture Gary Black says he toured farms in three counties this week following the storm that raked Georgia’s coast last weekend. Black says many pecan farmers lost up to one-third of their trees, including trees older than 100 years. Black says it takes at least seven years for a new tree to start producing pecans.
Four days after tropical storm Hermine, farmer says nearly 30% of his crop is gone. He says more than a thousand pecan trees were torn down by the storm last week. Three weeks out from harvest and mid-hurricane season, all you can do is pray. Many of them were even ripped off the branch, which he says, 45 to 60 pecans costs them a pound.
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