The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Local News

May 4, 2011

Farmers impacted by powerful storms

— Wednesday’s storms left an indelible scar across thousands of acres of Limestone County, and perhaps no one is feeling the effects more than the county’s farmers.

Tornado damage littered wheat fields with bricks, shingles and other debris. Dead cows were found along roadsides, while some cattle are still missing.

Shane Seay, executive director with the Limestone County Farm Service Agency, said he had surveyed damage on several county farms, but even he’s not sure of the extent of the devastation.

“You’ve got several (farms) in East Limestone that are just gone,” he said. “We’ve got one producer who has equipment, but I don’t know if any of it’s operational.”

He said the wheat crops fared pretty well overall, but it’s full of trash, which could destroy equipment at harvest time. Some cornfields were shredded, but some crops are still young enough that it could make a rebound. However, some farmers don’t even have a place to live.

“The devastation is just awful, but people are proud to be alive,” Seay said.

He said farms near Tanner and East Limestone suffered the most damage.

“Belle Mina took a direct hit; they haven’t even found all their cows yet,” he said.

Jerry Allen Newby with Newby Farms said his family’s property had minor damage compared to some, but had lost some irrigation systems and had significant damage to a rental house. He knew of at least one farmer who had lost everything after his shop took a direct hit, but added that there would be plenty of farmers ready to help those who needed it.

“We’ll rebound, I believe, but we just have to get everything cleaned up,” Newby said. “We’ll clean up and pick ourselves up and go again.”

Newby said he and other Newby Farms workers had planned to help a neighbor clean up their property and added there were others who could also use help.

“All you have to do is just drive down the road and look at all the people trying to help and clean up,” he said. “It could have happened to any one of us.”

Producer Matt Haney said his family was lucky and only lost two irrigation systems, but like Newby, he said he knew of area farmers who had lost nearly everything.

Haney’s aunt, Charlotte Haney remembers the April 1974 tornadoes that narrowly missed her property then, much like Wednesday’s storms.

“It was a mile down the road from us in 1974 and it was just south of us again,” she said.

Despite the family’s good luck, she knew there were many in the farming community who had sustained real losses, but added there would be plenty of help available.

“There’s debris in the farm land, but that can be picked up,” she said. “We always pull together and we’ll come through it.”

Farmers who sustained losses in Wednesday’s storms may be eligible for disaster relief from FSA. Key programs that address the impact from disasters include the: Emergency Conservation Program, which includes the cleanup of debris and fencing on farmland; Livestock Indemnity Program, which extends to livestock deaths; and other programs included the Noninsured Disaster Assistance Program for crop losses.

Fact sheets for these programs can be found at www.fsa.usda.gov. Producers can also call the Limestone County FSA office at 256-232-4025 or visit the office at 1795 U.S. 72 East in Athens.

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