Natural Disasters Drastically Change Farming Conditions

UN News

Hannah Lonergan, Staff Writer |

On Aug. 25, The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that it would offer assistance to farmers and ranchers who had been affected by the devastating wildfires on the West Coast. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has an emergency loan program for farmers to help them recover and reestablish themselves after a natural disaster.

Fall has already begun, which means we’re in prime harvest season for many areas on the West Coast. Farmers and livestock producers have already faced a number of challenges so far this year, especially with the COVID-19 pandemic throwing them for a loop.

Farmers need to be concerned not only with evacuating if a fire is approaching their area, but also of the loss of income if their produce is not accepted by the buyer. The smoke from wildfires drastically affects the operations of vineyards in California. Grapes can easily be ruined if they are exposed to too much smoke, decreasing the quality. Other difficulties include providing PPE for their workers. Many farmers had their harvesters work around the clock to save as many crops as possible. When the air quality gets bad, they are required to provide N95 masks which are already in high demand due to COVID-19. Workers on farms are also losing wages as farmers cannot afford to pay them for missed days due to unsafe working conditions.    

On Sept. 10, the USDA announced that it would also be providing assistance to rural communities, farmers, ranchers, families and small businesses affected by the recent Hurricane Laura. The hurricane had a storm surge of 17 feet and was a category four hurricane when it hit the coast of Louisiana in late August. The USDA remains confident in its ability to help the farmers on the Gulf Coast throughout the 2020 hurricane season.

Hurricane Laura caused an estimated 535 million dollars in damages to Louisiana’s farmers. Many rice, hemp, fish and timber farmers had significant losses due to the harsh weather and loss of power.      

Whether it be an approaching wildfire or an impending hurricane, the USDA provides information on protecting livestock. While protecting all livestock is sometimes not possible during natural disasters, many livestock producers have to evacuate their animals to a safe zone.

Farmers also note that even when they are not concerned about their land being burned due to the wildfires, they must also be concerned about losing their electricity. Many depend on their irrigation systems to water their crops and could result in losses if they are not watered.

Many farms on the West Coast cannot do much to prevent damage to their land. Although some have attempted to clear the surrounding brush to act as a middle ground between them and the fire, there is still a high risk for substantial losses. To try and recover some profit from lost crops and time, farmers have set up GoFundMe fundraisers.

Wildfires and hurricane damages cause produce prices to increase and for shortages to arise. Shoppers should be understanding as these devastating natural disasters don’t just stop because we need produce. Remember to always be kind to supermarket workers, who have no control over the price of produce or the availability. Visit local farmers’ markets when in season to support the local farm industry!

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