Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue saw firsthand the devastation brought to Duplin County, one of North Carolina’s hardest hit areas by Hurricane Florence during a farm tour Monday morning.
Joined by Congressman David Rouzer and North Carolina Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler, Perdue toured Dail Farms, a poultry farm in Duplin County where 12 chicken houses flooded during the storm.
Perdue, Rouzer and Troxler were scheduled to take a helicopter tour of the damage, but weather conditions and low visibility forced the aircraft to stay grounded, and the trio took a ground tour with county officials.
“The damage is pretty significant,” Perdue said referring to the flood areas he viewed during his earlier tour. “There are poultry houses inundated with waste. We plan to get those houses cleaned out in the most environmental way possible.”
Following the tour, the secretary, congressman and commissioner met at the Duplin County Airport with farmers and talked first hand about the flood damage brought about by Hurricane Florence just a week ago.
“We want to do everything we can to partner with the commissioner, with the Governor and with Congress to make the cleanup and restoration as healthy and helpful as possible,” Perdue said during a press conference following his tour.
While Dail Farms didn’t loose any chickens during the flood, the birds had just gone to market, many other farmers are facing not only a loss in the poultry industry, but damage to agriculture crops as well.
Both Perdue and Rouzer described the sights and smells they experienced while taking their tour.
“As we were driving by these communities and seeing people cleaning out their homes, and then the smell of the crops rotting,” Perdue explained, “it’s pretty impactful.”
During Monday’s press conference, Perdue referenced the saying, “a picture is worth a thousand words,” and said “the smell is worth a thousand words,” as he talked about how impactful his ground tour of Duplin County had been.
As for the United States Department of Agriculture, Perdue said there would be help provided to the areas that were impacted by Hurricane Florence. The rural development division will assist towns with economic recovery efforts, while other areas will assist businesses rebuild, and the food safety division gets involved with the food inspection aspect of recovery.
“Our hearts go out to the people hurting,” Perdue said. “People helping people is what it’s all about.”
For those farmers needing recovery and loss assistance, Perdue said they should contact their local Farm Service Agency to begin the process.
Rouzer, who also toured areas in his district with president Donald Trump just a week ago, said the secretary was there to help.
“The secretary has care and concern for the farming community,” Rouzer shared.
Within Rouzer’s districts are Bladen, Brunswick, Columbus, Cumberland, Duplin, New Hanover, Pender, Robeson and Sampson counties. Of those nine district, eight were affected by flood waters.
“Duplin County looks like a lake with a few islands,” Rouzer said of what he witnessed during his flight over the county with the president. “My heart goes out for rural America and the farm families.”
Reach Kristy D. Carter at 910-592-8137, ext. 2588. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd. Like us on Facebook.