Early last month the United States Department of Agricultural, USDA, approved 33 counties in Virginia including Orange County as a primary county disaster for agriculture losses since January 2012, because of excessive heat, drought and high wind.
According to Orange County Cooperative Extension Unit Coordinator Steve Hopkins, the damage occurred as a result of the heat and dry conditions in January, as well as damage caused by the summer's derecho.
He said the heat from the summer was particularly brutal in July, combined with limited rainfall, only 3.30 inches, according to the Northern Piedmont Center weather data.
"The eastern end of the county was more affected than the western end because of the patterns of a few storms during that period," Hopkins said. "The corn crop was the most affected crop because we had the dry conditions and heat when a lot of the crop was trying to pollinate."
He said corn yields for the county are from zero to 250 bushels per acre, with rain being very spotty this summer. However, it seemed the animals were mostly spared from any harm.
"Animals were not affected as bad as the corn crop," he said. "Farmers had a lot of fence damage from the high winds of that one storm. Also, some damage [occurred] from the power being out and having to find generators to get water to livestock."
With the disaster designation comes the opportunity for farm operators in affected counties to be eligible to be considered for assistance from the USDA's Farm Service Agency (FSA), provided eligibility requirements are met. This assistance includes FSA emergency loans. Hopkins said typiacally the loans are used to purchase additional feed, but can be used for other expenses. Interested farmers have eight months from the Oct. 2 disaster declaration to apply for emergency low interest loan assistance. For more information, visit www.fsa.usda.gov.
And unlike the corn crop, it seems the local soybean crop did very well.
"Full season soybean yields are very good," Hopkins said. "Double crop are fair to good. Soybeans responded very well to the rains received in August and September."
To date, Orange County has only received 35.72 inches of rain, below the 71-year average of 36.76 inches, according to the Northern Piedmont Center weather data.