Tornadoes may impact agriculture - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Tornadoes may impact agriculture

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< STRONG> Donalsonville-- The tornadoes that tore through Southwest Georgia on Tuesday could have a severe impact on the state's largest industry. Many farmers have been hit hard by the twisters.

One of them is Ricky Smith, a member of the "Seminole County Farm Family of the Year."

The Seminole County Farm Family of the Year is having to reassess this year's planting season. Ricky Smith's farm took the brunt of one of Tuesday's tornadoes. "It was 2 miles wide and 22 miles long, so it's a lot of devastation," he said.

The twister tore a path right through the Smith's cattle. Six were killed immediately, but the worst has yet to come. "We're going to have some more loss. And those that will recover are damaged."

The Smith's aren't the only farmers who are cleaning up their land. County Extension Agent Rome Ethredge says the tornadoes hurt several other farmers' water supply. "We've had over a dozen irrigation systems twisted up, a lot of them totally demolished."

Fortunately, the tornadoes hit right before the major part of planting season, so the crop damage was not as severe as it could have been. But as you see, farmers suffered heavy equipment losses. That's what could hinder this year's crops. "We've got tractors damaged, cotton pickers, peanut combines."

Insurance will cover some farmers' losses. But Ethredge says a lot it can't, and won't, cover. "I don't know how many millions of dollars worth of damage we've seen to agriculture, but it would be in the millions for sure."

That's an estimate the Smiths have become all too familiar with. But despite all of the damage and loss, they're determined to stick to the only business they know. "We'll recover," said Ricky Smith. "But it's the good people and neighbors that will get us through."

The Smiths are still counting their losses, but they say the damage has passed the six-figure mark. Ethredge says the two-to-seven inches of rain that blanketed Seminole County washed away much of the corn crop.

There also was severe forestry damage. But looking on the bright side, Ethredge says the rain was much needed.

posted by dave.miller@walb.com