Flooding in California

5 Things to Mitigate Farm Risk During Natural Disaster

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As the nation watches the ongoing punch from Hurricane Florence (now a tropical storm) as it has been dumping rain for days and causing catastrophic storm surges, all eyes have been on an area just inland from the North Carolina coast, where there are more pigs than people. Near New Bern, NC, each hog farm has one or more open-air “lagoons” filled with manure, and some could be vulnerable to flooding if the hurricane brings as much rain as feared.

Rising rivers could also inundate some low-lying lagoons and hog houses. About 60 of them lie within what the state of North Carolina considers the 100-year-flood plain. Animals in those houses may need to be evacuated for the flood waters rise.

Two teams from the Federal Emergency Management Administration, along with county emergency crews, were using boats to rescue people from their homes and vehicles, the Associated Press reports. About 16 county crews were out rescuing those who had refused to heed evacuation warnings and were now stranded.

While there are many support systems in place for citizens during a natural disaster, what can individual farmers do to mitigate risk in the midst of crisis?


  1. Have a farm emergency action plan in writing.

“Most state departments of agriculture offer templates, and knowing who to contact in the event of an emergency is the most important part,” says Emily Johannes, director of K·Coe Isom’s ResourceMax sustainability program. “In a crisis, you need to have at the ready all of the pertinent telephone numbers of emergency services in case 911 is not working, as well as businesses to contact in a disasters, such as the gas company.”

2.   Properly secure your farm and property.

“Ahead of any natural disasters, do a walk around your farm property to add reinforcements to buildings and structures. Clear debris and nail down any windows or siding that could pull away. As soon as it is safe, farmers need to check all buildings and surroundings on the farm site and capture damage with a camera or your smartphone for insurance purposes,” Johannes says.

3.   Insurance policy check-in.

It’s not a good time to find out that you don’t have enough insurance to cover damages in the eye of a storm. Review all insurance policies on a regular basis.

4.   Prepare animal care.

If you are unable to move livestock, begin a logistics plan to delegate crews tasked with caring for animals during the storm. Barn staff need to know proper evacuation routes. Always ensuring your team is trained and ready to handle the disaster is key as well – online training modules that are quick and easy are a good way to remind your employees about what’s required.

5.  Manure management.

One of the biggest issues during natural disasters for livestock producers is manure management and containing runoff. Working to ensure your lagoons are pumped down to accommodate the additional rain, and that levees and barriers are secured are just a few of the strategies to employ well ahead of the storm.

Lastly, ask for help. The most thorough farm emergency plan still may not answer all of your questions after the storm has passed. K·Coe Isom’s sustainability team is at the ready to help with questions or concerns. Contact our advisors for assistance, at emily.johannes@koe.com.

Jeanne Bernick
Jeanne serves as K·Coe Isom's Ag Market Champion. Previously editor of Top Producer, she uses her 20 years of experience to help large commercial growers expand and sustain their agricultural businesses.
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