SUMTER CO., GA (WALB) - Georgia farmers say they've never faced a bigger threat to their crops.
Feral hogs are causing millions of dollars in damage, and the rapidly growing wild hog population on farms is turning farm fields into battle fields.
"[In] the fall of the year, harvest time, a week or two delay or missing out can make or break you," said Aaron Cosby, who farms in Sumter County.
He has been farming land there since the 1980s. Fall is the time of year when farmers cash in.
"We made a decent crop," he noted. "We just got to harvest it now," said Cosby.
The job starts at the beginning of the year with planting and preparing fields, and continues around the clock.
"You've got disease pressure, insect pressure, weed pressure, and it's a continuing battle all season long to grow a good crop, a clean crop," explained Cosby.
But more than that, an ongoing problem- new to some, is a non-top battle.
"About 11 years ago, we got introduced to wild hogs," said Cosby. "And that's probably our biggest enemy in agriculture right now. It's something that impacts everyone that owns land and I think we've got to be prepared to start finding a solution that's for sure."
Earlier in 2015, Cosby had a two acre plot of land that hogs ravaged twice right after planting.
"This is the same field that we had trouble with back during the spring establishing a stand of peanuts," he explained.
The hog nuisance begins in the spring, continues all summer, and kicks up again at harvest time.
He said at one point he was plowing up to one end of the field, turned around to come back, and hogs came out of the woodline and began feeding on the overturned peanuts."
State officials say the huge omnivores are now responsible for millions of dollars in damage on farms across Georgia.
"I don't think there's a greater challenge you've got as far as just destruction and nuisance on the land than our feral hog issue that we have in Georgia," said State Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black.
But a state-launched program called Hunters Helping Farmers hasn't been able to connect the thousands of hunters interested in helping out these farmers.
Commissioner Black said the engagement just isn't there.
As a result, there's been no effective way to combat the issue.
Other options, like traps, only make a small dent in the population.
Bud Harrod is one hunter who has connected with farmers.
He's spotted groups of 40 or 50 hogs together.
"They're panicking right now. They don't know what to do. They've got people coming in [and] trapping them, trying everything," said Harrod.
"It's a headache and it's every year now. Wherever you plant peanuts at, they're going to find them," worried Cosby.
Farmers have started coming together and looking after each other's fields.
Cosby said they kill around 1,200 to 1,300 hogs a year in just a handful of Sumter County fields.
He and other farmers said they aren't going to stop until the threat is gone.
Gary Black said the state plans to continue that Hunters Helping farmers program despite the lack of participation.
Regulations on hog hunting
There is no closed season for hunting on private land.
Hunters are allowed to hunt hogs at night, use a light that is attached to them, and can hunt over bait.
On public land, hogs may be taken with archery equipment during archery deer season, with deer weapons during firearms deer season, with turkey weapons during turkey season and with small game weapons during small game season.
There is no hunting at night and no hunting over bait on public land.
DNR officials said they continue to monitor the transportation of live feral hogs in the state, and they'll continue to work with the Georgia Department of Agriculture to combat the hog problem.