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Broken Pecan Trees, Ruined Cotton Harvest: Georgia counts Michael's costs



VIENNA, Ga. Dan Simmons stood in a ruined field and did some quick math as he stared at row after row of stooping stalks of white, white cotton scattered on the gray-brown muck.

"That's $ 64,000 of land," said Mr. Simmons, 52 years old. "I've never seen anything like this. It looks like an early snow."

The 80-acre field was only a small portion of the 4,200 acres of cotton farmed by Mr. Simmons, most of them were through Hurricane Michael damaged. The farm's crew worked desperately to protect the harvest in the days before the storm arrived, but they saved only part of what would have been a bumper crop before the wind and rain swept in.

In South Georgia's Dooly County, About 175 miles inland from Hurricane Michael landed on the Florida Panhandle, cotton farmers and peka growers faced fierce winds just weeks before harvest.

  In South Georgia's Dooly County, cotton farmers and puka growers were hit by hurricanes just weeks before harvest.

In southern Dooly County, cotton farmers and peka growers were hit by gale-force winds just weeks before harvest.

"This is by far the most damaging event I have ever seen. I've always seen it for the pecan nut industry," said Lenny Wells, expert on nuts at the University of Georgia's Cooperative Extension.

The Beijing breeders of the State expected a large crop ear of about 110 million pounds – but now it will probably bring half, said Mr. Wells. A similar assessment of damage for Georgia cotton was not completed .The value of cotton production in the countries affected by Michael in 2017 was noisy Farmers also suffered losses from other crops, and an estimated 87 poultry houses were destroyed nationwide, said the Department of Agriculture of Georgia.

In Vienna, Ga., the seat of the United States Department of Agriculture Dooly County, electricity was restored this week and all roads cleared tree branches, roofs and zerbroc Hene's lampposts lay in a park in front of the courthouse. Outside the city, there were crashed trees and broken fields along most of the streets. The air smelled of smoke as people burned rubbish.

Terrell Hudson, 71, chairman of the Commissariat Committee and lifelong farmer, suffocated and talked about the destruction.

"There will be peasants throwing their hands up and walking away," he said.

While many farmers had crop insurance, much of their cover was limited, and insurance payments are based on average crop yields from several previous years, not at this year's high.

Local insurance agent Shan Akin said his offices have been flooded for days. Calls from farmers inquiring about crop insurance and property insurance for damaged buildings and equipment.

Some farmers have other financial problems, including contracts signed earlier in the season to deliver certain quantities of grain. If their fields are destroyed, many may need to try to buy harvests from unaffected areas to fulfill those contracts.

Before the storm, the peasants of the county were literally in "tall cotton" with the plant's bolls – the white puff bag harvested for textiles. big, healthy and ready for the harvest.

With approximately 70,000 acres planted each year for cotton production, Dooly County is the leading cotton grower in Georgia, according to the Cooperative Extension of the University of Georgia.

Matt Coley, owner and operator of the family-owned Coley Gin & Fertilizer Company, said the gin is now 40% less than expected. As cotton processing machines rumbled near his office, Mr. Coley said he was not sure how the company would handle the loss, but hoped to be able to handle enough cotton and peanuts that were not hit so badly in the area "to be here next year."

"God has it in his hands," he said. "It comes to the point where worries and annoyances will not make me any better."

Ellis Brothers Pecans Inc. lost about 2,000 trees when tropical storm Irma hit the area last year. Hurricane Michael has knocked over at least 4000 people, said manager Slade Ellis, who stands between century-old tree trunks and branches.

  Many farmers signed contracts earlier in the season to deliver certain crops. If the fields are destroyed, many may need to try to buy grain from unaffected areas to meet those obligations.

Many farmers signed contracts earlier in the season to deliver certain crops. If fields are destroyed, many may need to try to buy crops from pristine areas to meet those obligations.

As he left, his boots of tens of thousands of scattered pecans crunched into one orchard of the 3,000 acres of pecan trees family farms.

"Our whole harvest is on the ground," said Mr. Ellis, 27. "It will be a salvage operation."

His family has crop insurance, but regulators will want them to harvest what they can, which requires double the staff of about 50 employees to remove limbs to retrieve some of the nuts before they go bad, he said ,

Corey Young, 31, a servant of the Ellis Brothers, said, "It's a mess," but the storm has given the district unemployed people an opportunity in the near future.

"When I saw the storm, I saw work," he said. "That was the silver lining."

The biggest loss for Ellis Brothers is the trees that are uninsured – the farm's crop insurance covers only the pecans themselves – and requires at least six years of growth before producing decent nuts and 10 before producing well Mr. Ellis. Many of the uprooted trees also damaged irrigation systems, he said.

Asked how the farm would recover from the storm, Mr. Ellis paused, then said, "I do not know how to answer that."

Write to Cameron McWhirter at cameron.mcwhirter@wsj.com


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