By admin       2018-10-15

DALE COUNTY, Ala. (WTVY) - People around the Wiregrass have spent the past few days fixing the mess Hurricane Michael left behind. For cotton farmers, the storm might have cost them a whole year's profit. The Balkcom family has been farming cotton in the same land in Dale County since the early 1900's. "The biggest thing is on the cotton, and the cotton is on the ground," said Doug Balkcom. The Balkcom family has been farming cotton in the same land in Dale County since the early 1900's. Every once in a while, the weather causes some problems for them. This year, it was Hurricane Michael. "We've had just a terrific thunderstorm come up, or just a rare tornado, and that can be devastating too,” said Gayle Balkcom. “Of course, in this respect, everybody is affected." Auburn University Extension Agronomist Agronomist William Birdsong has spent the last few days evaluating South-east Alabama's cotton crop. He said the damage from the storm was catastrophic. "From out early anticipated loss reports, we're looking at nearly a 100 million dollar loss,” said Birdsong. “That's our initial estimates for Southeast Alabama, and that's revenue that would've been spent right here in our local economy." Although some fields don't look too bad, farmers may still have problems when they go to harvest. Birdsong explained that a lot of cotton got pretty well matted by the storm, which means it takes several pulls to get it out of each bulb, and the spindle that comes through to collect will leave it behind or on the ground where it won't be able to be used at all. Birdsong said, based on early yields and cotton prices, this year was set to be the best harvest in a decade. It may seem like crop insurance would help offset the loss, but farms are only insured by their average yield over a ten year span. "The farms are only insured at 50, 60, 75 percent of that,” said Birdsong. “So, as you can see, you keep widdling at the amount of insurance that's available to farms, and it's a very nominal amount." It may not be a good harvest for the Balkcoms, but they're just grateful to have a farm at all. "They're starting to talk about finding bodies, especially in Mexico Beach and Panama City,” said Gayle Balkcom. “It's hard to even start thinking about your crops right now." While the Balkcoms may be optimistic they can make up the difference overtime, Birdsong said some of the farmers he talked to aren't going to try again at all after their monumental loss this year.

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