While assessments are still being made as to how many Ohio County farmers were impacted by the Dec. 10 tornado, University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Agent Greg Comer suspects it is between 25-50.
Damage runs the gamut, from 300 acres of fencing demolished to outbuildings and hay barns with roofs blown off, to grain bins and their contents damaged.
In the Mantanzas community in the western part of the county, a farmer lost seven of his chicken houses.
Since the storm, Comer has been compiling relief and aid information for the farmers impacted. He visits their farms with the information packets when he can, and let’s them know they are not alone in their recovery efforts.
Some of that recovery, he knows, will likely take a few years.
“We are past the storm, but it doesn’t mean farmers are OK,” he said. “We don’t know the true impact of the storm at this point.”
He referenced some farmers across the state who went through a tornado years ago who later had cattle and other livestock experience trauma and shock from the experience. February is around the time calving season begins, so there is a worry that some cows may lose their calves, or have other long-term difficulties from the stressors of the storm.
“Livestock are not immune to stress,” he said. “Just like any other living beings, they react to stress in some ways like we would.”
He is making sure livestock farmers are aware of this, and helping them to determine the longer-term impacts that may await them.
A lot of donations have been received from individuals across the country wanting to help farmers rebuild and get back to business.
Last week, Comer went to Elizabethtown to pick up a truckload of fencing supplies, and he said more is expected to come in the next few weeks.
That doesn’t surprise him, he said.
“Farmers help farmers when there’s a need out there,” he said, adding that he and others in this area did the same thing when there were wild fires that destroyed farms in the last few years. “Agriculture communities just come together to help each other.”
Some of the information that Comer is dispersing has to do with applying for FEMA assistance, which farmers can learn more about by visiting www.fema.gov.distaster/4630, or by calling 1-800-621-3362.
There is also important information about how farmers should report agricultural loss to the Kentucky Department of Agriculture. First steps include reporting losses to insurance agencies, and documenting the loss in detail with photos and videos.
Farmers who lost livestock are also given information about the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s livestock indemnity program, which provides benefits to those who lost livestock during disasters, like weather events.
In some cases where farmers lost their livestock, they also had to follow protocols for proper disposal requirements. In some instances the USDA allows for on-site burials.
There are also considerations to be made when it comes to salvaging damaged timber. For more information about those practices, visit https://kytimberdamage.ca.uky.edu/sites/kytimberdamage.ca.uky.edu/files/forfs12-4.pdf.
Bobbie Hayse, bhayse @messenger-inquirer.com, 270-691-7315