Hurricane Arthur could spoil July Fourth holiday plans for Carolinians, but many hay producers in Sampson County may actually welcome it, or the rain from the storm, at least.
With the year halfway over, the majority of hay production in the area is about three weeks behind due to lack of rain.
Paul Gonzalez, an agriculture extension agent for the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service in Sampson County, said it has not been plentiful.
“If it continues to stay dry, we are going to be in a bind,” Gonzalez stressed.
In some areas, farmers have had enough rain to meet their needs, but in others, rain has been sparse. Gonzalez said most of it has been in the Clinton and Turkey areas. Other communities, such a Turkey and Autryville, have been dry.
“It’s been hit or miss,” he said about the spotty conditions.
According to the Cooperative Extension Service, agriculture is a $1.1 billion industry in Sampson County, with more than 50 percent of the 60,000 county acres in farmland.
Along with hay, the county ranks high in the production of flue cured tobacco, sweet potatoes, turkeys and vegetables. Additionally, the county is No.2 in the production of hogs and is in the top 10 for crops such as corn, cotton, soybeans and wheat.
Sampson County is seventh in the state for cattle.
“We use a lot of hay,” Gonzalez aid.
Sixty percent of farmers in the county grow at least a little bit of hay, while some grow a whole lot. Gonzalez said 70 percent of hay production is not on schedule because of the weather. As a temporarily fix, he said water from lagoons may be used, but that can only so far.
“If they pump the lagoon too low, it’s not going to function properly,” he said.
He advises those who need it to purchase it early. But as an alternative, he mentioned the use of millets or peanut bail.
“Hopefully we will not get in that position,” he said.
As an extension agent for the Sampson County Center, he provides assistance, information and education for ruminant livestock, pastures, forages and farm safety. Like the farmers he helps daily, Gonzalez hopes the weather changes soon.
“Right now I wouldn’t really panic,” he said about the situation. “We are getting a little rain now. Let’s see what the storm brings to us.”
But Della King, an extension agent for field crops in Sampson, sees things a little different. She hopes tropical storms and hurricanes don’t bring damage to Sampson’s crops.
“We can always use rain, but we don’t want rain and monsoons because you can’t get in the field to do what you need to,” King said. “It’s a little different with hay.”
Overall, King said crop production is going well, despite a few challenges dealing with insect disease. One crop which is facing problems is tobacco.
Like Gonzalez, King is seeing dry results in certain areas of the county.
“If Mother Nature could give us the rain, it would be wonderful,” she said.
For the rest of 2014, the outlook depends on weather conditions.
“We can’t predict the future and what Mother Nature will bring to us because that plays a big role in the industry,” King said.
Chase Jordan can be reached at 910-592-8137, ext. 136. Follow us on Twitter: @SampsonInd