With flood waters receding and the Irene clean-up well underway, now's the time to check in on how farmers fared in the face of this monster storm. The answer is: pretty bad. But it could have been even worse.
The produce trade paper The Packer spoke to agriculture officials in various states. According to New Jersey's assistant secretary of agriculture, damage was "sporadic," but will likely still cause some supply problems. Some newly planted crops were washed away and flood waters caused damage to crops on the vine, but there will still be enough time in the season to replant most crops, so severe shortages shouldn't occur.
Farther south, the damage was more severe. And yet, as one Virginia farmer said, "it wasn't as bad as it could have been." The storm made its initial landfall on North Carolina; farmers there were hardest hit. The president of a produce sales group told The Packer, "From general assessment, on the North Carolina farms, I don't know if there will be anything left." That said, others put the losses in North Carolina from 10-40 percent of the normal yield, depending on the crop.
Massachusetts farmers saw the lightest damage. According to this report from Worcester, Mass., the sweet corn crop was most affected but might still be salvageable. The photo they ran with the article shows corn stalks virtually flattened by wind and rain; time is of the essence as farmers rush to get the mature corn off the ground in time. Apples were another near miss -- had the storm hit a few weeks from now, the wind would have knocked ripe fruit off the trees. As it is, all but 5 percent of the fruit appears to have stayed put.