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Spring Floods Delayed Planting Season For Many State Farmers

June 02, 2014

Joel Sirmon of Baldwin County stands in a flooded field of sweet potatoes.

Spring storms dumped more than a foot of rain in south Alabama in late April, creating additional planting delays in already water-logged fields.

“With these last two rain events, we’ve gotten about 13 and a half inches of rain,” said Bert Driskell of Grand Bay in south Mobile County. “We couldn’t get into the fields to do anything.”

Driskell, a Mobile County Farmers Federation board member, said he usually is finished planting corn by late April but had less than 50 percent in the ground at that time. He said he feared the rains washed away recently applied fertilizer, and he was under a time crunch to plant peanuts and cotton. 

“We probably had about 20 percent of the peanut crop planted,” Driskell said. “The delays make it tough at harvest time, too, since we can’t spread out harvest over several weeks like we’d prefer.”

At Sessions Farm, also in Grand Bay, heavy rains left some vegetable fields partially submerged.

“Our vegetables have been taking a beating the past month with cold weather and now the rain,” Jeremy Sessions said. “I don’t think the crops are going to be nearly as good as we hoped, but you never can tell.”

Part of the sweet potato crop at Sirmon Farms in Baldwin County was washed out from floods in late April. Farmer Joel Sirmon had 10 acres under up to a foot of water.

“This is the third real heavy rain we’ve had this year,” said Sirmon, who had only planted sweet potatoes and corn at the time. “We’re supposed to be planting peanuts and cotton right now, but it’s too wet for that.”

Despite the setbacks, Sirmon was optimistic.

 “You can’t get down,” he said. “You’ve got to keep on going and have faith.”

The story was similar across south Alabama from Washington County, where farmer Walt Richardson had 10 acres of corn underwater, to Henry County, where Thomas Adams said his fields had standing water.

“Everything we’ve planted seems to be holding up well, but we keep getting farther behind,” said Adams, who is Henry County Farmers Federation president. “We are blessed to have missed the high winds and tornadoes.”

In neighboring Houston County, Alabama Farmers Federation Southeast Vice President George Jeffcoat said he received nearly five inches of rain from the storm. While it postponed planting, Jeffcoat said he was thankful there was no wind damage.

The news was better for Geneva County farmer Jimmy Royce Helms. The heavy rain washed out a few of his prepared terraces, but he had not planted any seed prior to the storm.

In Coffee County, Carl Sanders, who is the Federation’s District 10 director and president of the Alabama Peanut Producers Association, said heavy rain also caused delayed planting for farmers in his area.

Farther west, Alabama Farmers Federation District 11 Director Sammy Gibbs, who farms in Escambia and Monroe counties, had several flooded fields.

Officially, the Mobile Regional Airport reported a record 11.24 inches of rain April 29.


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