Hurricane Florence begins pounding eastern US


Hurricane Florence has collided with the US east coast, making landfall early this morning near Wilmington, North Carolina. Although downgraded from category 4 to 1 in recent days, meteorologists are still calling it an extremely dangerous weather event.

Pig and poultry farmers in the North and South Carolina are reportedly facing huge potential losses from 140 km/h winds, several feet or more of rainfall, as well as the risk of widespread power outages that could last days. By Friday morning, power was out at an estimated half a million homes.

Smithfield, a major pork producer with operations in the Carolinas and eastern Virginia plants, said Thursday that 250 company-owned farms and about 1,500 contract farms were “taking steps to protect people, animals and buildings against wind and rain damage.”

Many hog operations had already drained manure storage lagoons substantially to reduce the risk of overflowing due to expected heavy rainfall.

Poultry is the top agricultural industry in North Carolina, and the state ranks second in total turkey production.

Butterball, the country’s largest producer of turkey products, is based in North Carolina, said it began making preparations at many of its North Carolina-based processing plants, hatcheries and feed mills.

Farmers near the southeastern US coast understand hurricane risks well and how to take steps to minimize damage. Even so, Hurricane Matthew in 2016, Floyd in 1999 and Fran in 1996 all caused damage to the region’s agriculture industry well into the hundreds of millions.