CHARLESTON — All of South Carolina was declared a federal disaster area Wednesday as a result of the heavy rains that have inundated the state since late last winter.
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Thomas Vilsack notified Governor Nikki Haley on Wednesday that her request for a disaster designation has been approved. That means farmers across the state who suffered crop losses because of the heavy rains can qualify for low-interest loans.
Vilsack designated 36 counties, including Horry and Georgetown, as primary disaster areas as a result of the rains that have fallen since March 1.
That list includes Horry and Georgetown counties, where the National Weather Service officials said rainfall at their North Myrtle Beach station registered 40.76 inches of rain so far this year, about 6.14 inches above normal. In Georgetown County, at Brookgreen Gardens, 42.83 inches were recorded. No normal value was available at that site.
The remaining 10 counties were declared contiguous disaster areas where the damage isn’t quite as severe but farmers still qualify for loans if rain caused crop losses. Those counties are Abbeville, Chester, Greenwood, Lancaster, McCormick, Anderson, Fairfield, Kershaw, Lexington and Oconee.
“I am pleased with Secretary Vilsack’s quick response to South Carolina’s request,” state Agriculture Commissioner Hugh Weathers said in a statement. “The agriculture industry contributes greatly to the state’s economy, and this unusually wet summer has impacted the work of our farmers.”
Since the first of the year, rainfall in Charleston is 11 inches above normal. In Columbia rainfall is 12 inches above normal while in Greenville, rainfall is running 21 inches above normal, according to the National Weather Service.
Last week Haley and state Agriculture Commissioner Hugh Weathers visited a Dorchester County farm to view the damage that has left fields flooded, preventing farmers from planting crops or harvesting those crops they were able to get into the fields.
Agriculture officials say that crop damage has exceeded 30 percent in the 36 counties declared primary disaster areas.
The rain has been helpful in growing an abundant supply of hay. But wet fields have farmers worried they won’t be able to harvest, which could mean a shortage of livestock feed after the first frost.