“It’s the worst thing I’ve ever seen in my life.”
While residents of Florida’s Panhandle rushed to stormproof their homes ahead of Hurricane Michael, the hardworking farmers of Southeast Georgia were scrambling to harvest their crops.
According to a representative from the Georgia Department of Agriculture, only 5% of pecan crops, 15% of cotton crops, 30% of vegetables and 50% of peanuts were harvested before the monster storm pummeled the region with Category 3 winds and rain.
The entire agriculture community agrees: Michael couldn’t have come at a worse time. The crops—which were particularly good this year—were at their most vulnerable point.
Cotton, peanuts and pecans, which account for $2 billion of the Georgia economy, were hit particularly hard. Georgia supplies nearly one-half of the nation’s peanuts. And according to the USDA, Southeastern cotton accounts for about 30% of the U.S. total production—with Georgia alone supplying half of the region’s overall crop.
"For me the cotton crop is as bad as it gets. I was picking 3 bale cotton yesterday, today it is gone,” cotton farmer and State Representative Clay Pirkle told the Georgia Department of Agriculture. The winds whipped the cotton bolls from his plants just like they had been harvested. “Can't tell the difference between what I've picked and what I haven't," Pirkle added.
Early County farmer Phil Buckhalter, told the Atlanta Journal Constitution that he did his best to race Michael, harvesting cotton until he had to stop at 3 a.m. He woke up this morning to complete and utter devastation across his hundreds of acres of cotton, peanuts and cattle.
“It’s the worst thing I’ve ever seen in my life,” Buckhalter told AJC. “We’ve dodged them for years, but we didn’t dodge this one.”
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The Georgia Department of Agriculture told Southern Living that they are still trying to quantify the extent of the damage. But they do know that at least 53 poultry houses were destroyed in Coffee, Houston, Mitchell, Wilcox and Decatur Counties.
Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black told The Telegraph that while assessments are still ongoing, early indications are bad. He compared the damage to that of a tornado, except with a 200-mile wide path. “
“This could be the worst we’ve ever seen,” Black said. “It’s absolute devastation.”