Floodwaters from Hurricane Matthew surround homes in Lumberton, North Carolina, on Wednesday. The flooding has had a huge impact on the agriculture-heavy state. Credit: Chuck Burton/AP

Devastation from extreme weather events like Hurricane Matthew isn’t changing their minds, either...

To say it’s been a busy harvest season for North Carolina farmer Peyton McDaniel would be an incredible understatement.

It’s been several days since Hurricane Matthew brought heavy rains to the state that killed at least 22 people, but farmers throughout eastern North Carolina and other regions the storm impacted are still racing to salvage as much of their crops as they can and minimize their losses.

For McDaniel, that’s meant a typical five- or six-day work week at his family’s 2,000-acre farm operation in the town of Whitakers has become a round-the-clock, seven-day affair marked by 18-hour work days navigating muddy fields and flooded roads. The 26-year-old is exhausted.

All the extra rainfall caused many of McDaniel’s crops, like his cotton and peanuts, to germinate early. He expects both crops to take a major hit due to the storm. He also anticipates that his sweet potatoes, still submerged in muck, to suffer immensely. If they stay there too long, they’ll rot.

“Right now, we’re doing the best we can,” McDaniel told The Huffington Post by phone Thursday. “This year might not be the year that everybody is running to the bank, but the bank may be running after you.”

McDaniel is not alone. It is also feared that millions of livestock have died in storm-related flooding. And state agriculture officials expect the impact of the storm will be felt for some time to come, causing millions of dollars in losses.

Hurricane Matthew is just one of many extreme weather events that has had a tremendous effect on U.S. farmers’ operations this year.In the Northeast region, farmers have struggled with the worst drought they’ve seen in more than a decade. Historic flooding in southeast Louisiana caused an estimated $110 million in agriculture losses. And farmers in California are still dealing with the ongoing drought as it enters its sixth year, costing the state’s industry some $600 million this year.


While no one weather event can be directly tied to climate change, an increasing number of scientists are describing a link between our warming planet and extreme weather like droughts and floods. 

A report released last fall from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine claimed that climate change is making events like these both more common and more extreme. A National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration came to a similar conclusion in its analysis of 2014 extreme weather and climate events.

For his part, McDaniel doesn’t think climate change had anything to do with the devastation brought to his farm. His family has been farming its land since 1756 and has seen all sorts of weather across all those decades, he noted.

“I don’t think you can point to global warming or a manmade problem on this,” McDaniel added. “It’s more of a cyclical thing.”

The minimal amount of existing research on the topic shows that most farmers would probably agree with McDaniel, even though their industry is both uniquely vulnerable to extreme weather and a significant source of climate change-causing greenhouse gases.

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