Wiregrass farmers begin first planting season since Hurricane Michael

Published: Apr. 9, 2019 at 6:21 PM CDT
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HEADLAND, AL (WSFA) - Curry Parker calls himself an old school farmer - his hands show his hard work from over the years.

“I’m making my 50th crop,” said Curry. “I started in 1970.”

With planting season here - his days are busy. Mother Nature seems to finally be on the Wiregrass farmer’s side.

“We had rain from Thursday night, all the way up to this morning. It fell good. Right now, we’re in good shape moisture wise," said Curry.

But as planting season starts, Parker and many farmers are still dealing with Hurricane Michael’s blow. Southeast Alabama reported $204 million in direct loss from the storm, so money is tighter for some farmers this year.

“When you get that kind of devastation, and the money we spend to go into these crops, and what we wind up getting out of them after harvest was certainly not enough to overcome that financial debt that we owed,” said Extension Peanut Agronomist Kris Balkcom.

Balkcom says last year’s debt for farmers may make it more difficult for farmers to get loans from banks for this year’s crop.

Parker had money saved up to cover his Hurricane Michael loss - acres of cotton deemed worthless, but savings from previous good years.

“I’m having to borrow more money for this crop than I have been in the past, because it took all my money to get paid up," Parker said.

Another concern this year is low crop prices. Cotton is reported around $400 a ton compared to last year, which was around $425-$440 a ton. Peanuts are averaging around 70 cents a pound versus last May they were around 91 cents a pound.

As farmers move forward this planting season, they’re still waiting on word about any federal disaster relief.

"The agriculture community in southeast Alabama, northeast Florida, and southwest Georgia need help and they need it now,“ said Parker. “There’s some farmers that aren’t going this year, because of Hurricane Michael.”

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