Chilton County among list to receive natural disaster declaration from USDA

Published 4:14 pm Friday, September 27, 2013

Chilton County was among 50 counties in Alabama to receive a natural disaster declaration by the U.S. Department of Agriculture because of damage caused by excessive rains and floods this year.

The declaration allows farmers in the 50 counties eligible to be considered for benefits from the USDA.

The declaration came after Gov. Robert Bentley wrote a letter to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Thomas Vilsack requesting assistance for farmers in counties hit hard by rain.

Counties covered by the disaster declaration span from Mobile on the Alabama coast to Madison in north Alabama.

Alabama Agriculture Commissioner John McMillan says 2013 has been one of the wettest years ever.

This year, farmers in some areas boasted of record crops because of heavy rain and cool temperatures while others had damages.

The 50 counties covered by the primary natural disaster designation are: Autauga, Baldwin, Barbour, Blount, Bullock, Calhoun, Cherokee, Chilton, Choctaw, Clarke, Cleburne, Coosa, Covington, Crenshaw, Cullman, Dale, Dallas, Elmore, Etowah, Fayette, Geneva, Greene, Hale, Henry, Houston, Jackson, Jefferson, Lamar, Lauderdale, Lowndes, Macon, Madison, Marengo, Mobile, Monroe, Montgomery, Morgan, Perry, Pickens, Pike, Russell, St. Clair, Shelby, Sumter, Talladega, Tallapoosa, Tuscaloosa, Walker, Washington and Wilcox.

With unusual cool spring temperatures prompting a delay in peaches, Chilton County Research and Extension Center Director Jim Pitts said the 2013 peach season was OK.

“The rain didn’t necessarily affect the peaches,” Pitts said. “I’m sure there were a few isolated incidents with farmers in the county, but what really hurt us was the cool spring temperatures.”

Pitts said some of the early varieties of peaches that are normally available toward the middle of May were delayed several weeks due to the cool spring and some of the varieties were unable to withstand the temperatures.

“A lot of our stuff has done well,” Pitts said. “The problem came when we first started out. Then, the timing was off a little bit and farmers missed a lot of markets.”

Pitts said by the end of June, there had been enough rainfall that the peaches sized up really well and the cool spring temperatures helped the size but the quality was ordinary.

“The quality of the peach is never as good when it is wet as it is when it is dry,” Pitts said. “You get the flavor out of the peach with water in the peach.”

Peach season normally runs from the middle of May to Labor Day, but some markets in the county were still selling peaches as of Sept. 16.

Durbin Farms Market in Clanton let customers know on their Facebook page Sept. 16 that O’Henry and Big Red varieties were still available but the supply was “winding down fast.”

Pitts said there have been summers with a lot of rain compared to some summers with drought conditions.

“We were dry in June this year,” Pitts said. “We got those days where you wish it would let you dry out, but for the most part we weren’t that bad. It wasn’t as hot as it normally is so a lot of stuff actually did pretty well.”