South Carolina farmers get federal help after soggy summer

The federal government is coming to the aid of South Carolina farmers hurt by excessive rain this summer.

The entire state has been declared a federal disaster area, which means farmers who suffered crop losses because of the heavy rains will be eligible for low-interest government loans.

Farmers in all counties will qualify for loans, though 36 counties have been designated as primary disaster areas.

Tobacco producers have been especially hurt by the soggy summer.

Wayne Skipper, manager of the L.W. Paul Living History Farm near Conway, says too much rain can be just as harmful to tobacco as too little.

The wet summer has created multiple problems for the state's tobacco crop.

"One of the ways is because the plant could not fill out and have the texture and the quality that it should. And also the rain would keep the farmer from being able to get in the field and harvest at the right time," Skipper said.

When tobacco stays in the field too long because the farmer can't harvest it, Skipper says the plants become over-ripe and lose weight.

Since the farmer's profit is based on price per pound, a wet growing season means tobacco farmers struggle to make money.

Clemson University extension agents say many tobacco farmers will get only about sixty percent of the harvest they expected when they planted this spring.

"Where farmers usually pick 3,000 pounds per acre, they're harvesting 16 to 18-hundred pounds this year," said Horry County agronomy agent William Hardee.

Hardee says demand for tobacco is up and the price has gone up, so this should have been a good year for tobacco producers.

Instead, it's been a near-disaster.

"Input costs have gone up, so they're going to scrape by this year, at best."

Also, Hardee says the wet spring meant the wheat harvest was delayed. That meant farmers were held back from planting other crops like soybeans and cotton, which hurt the yield for those crops.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.