Lowcountry farmers granted USDA disaster designation - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Lowcountry farmers granted USDA disaster designation

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HAMPTON CO., SC (WTOC) -

Farmers in the Lowcountry are getting some relief from the heavy rainfall this season.

The U.S. Dept. of Agriculture has issued a disaster declaration for 36 South Carolina counties.

Beaufort, Jasper and Hampton counties are among the list that have been declared Natural Disaster Areas. That means farmers can borrow up to $500,000 in low-interest emergency loans through the federal government if they meet the requirements.

A 67-acre cotton field is almost unrecognizable. 

"Right down here, you can see the little ball of cotton that's forming," said 82-year-old Bob Youmans.

Youmans has been farming his whole life and said this year has been rough.

"With the rain coming on, and we had a cool July, too, and cloudy and overcast and all that - the crop has just been slowing on; and it's been fighting what we call 'wet feet' or too much water," said Youmans.

He said they usually start harvesting cotton at the beginning of October, but weather conditions have delayed them by almost a month and a half.

"Our biggest quest now is can we mature this crop before frost?"

William Koger, county executive director of the Farm Service Agency, works closely with farmers from Beaufort, Jasper and Hampton counties.

He said he has never seen anything like this in his 30-year career.

"Our normal rainfall is about 52 inches per year. Right now, we're up at 75 depending on whose rain gauge we look at ... we're underwater," said Koger.

So far, he has seen more than 120 farm claims filed because of the harsh weather conditions.

Koger said the disaster declaration will help ease some of the burden on farmers. But for veterans such as Youmans, they're hoping they won't have to resort to that.

"I hope we don't have to but a farmer lives on hope," said Youmans.

Koger hopes the federal government will provide more financial assistance programs to farmers that may work more like a grant.

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