RALEIGH – The N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is ready to dispatch inspectors and field forces to assess damage to the state’s agriculture industry and to ensure food is safe for consumers. Inspectors are waiting for flood waters to recede to safe levels before making site visits. In the meantime, they are contacting firms to determine which areas will be prioritized.
“It’s important to get out into the field as soon as possible,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler, who has done aerial surveys of the damage. “We want to help our farmers recover as quickly as possible and assist agribusinesses to resume normal operations as soon as feasible.”
Here are some of the ways that NCDA&CS divisions are responding:
—Emergency Programs is coordinating with the State Emergency Operations Center and staffing the Ag Emergency Hotline number, 1-866-645-9403, to coordinate disaster response.
—Agronomists are making calls to find out the extent of crop damage in their areas. They will get out and start making site visits when it is safe to do so.
—The Veterinary Division is working hard to reach out to livestock and poultry producers. Depopulation teams are on standby and are assisting growers with disposal concerns.
—The Environmental Programs and Division of Soil and Water Conservation are also working with livestock and poultry producers to ensure the environmental impact is as little as possible.
— The Animal Welfare Section is working with animal shelters, animal control and animal organizations to ensure that companion animals are looked after. Staff are helping coordinate needs for co-located shelters and consulting on animal issues.
— The Food Distribution Division has sent many truckloads of food to assist in disaster relief efforts. Trucks of USDA food have been delivered in Wilmington, Fayetteville, Goldsboro and Elizabeth City, and two refrigerated trailers are in Fayetteville to assist the Baptist Men with their relief efforts.
— Food and Drug inspectors are reaching out to grocery stores and other outlets. They will be visiting stores in places where there have been prolonged power outages or flooding when it is safe to do so.
— Meat and Poultry Division inspectors will be visiting processing plants to ensure they are safe to begin operating again.
— Standards Division inspectors will be visiting gas stations to ensure that water didn’t get into the gas holding tanks, which will ruin a car’s engine. They have also issued an enforcement discretion to allow LP-gas suppliers to service tanks owned by another LP-gas company until Oct. 21. Some companies are unable to operate. This order helps ensure that consumers are able to get needed propane.
— The Southeastern Ag Events Center in Lumberton is being used as an emergency shelter.
— The N.C. Forest Service is assisting with chainsaw crews and helping landowners with questions they have about their timber after a disaster.
— The Structural Pest Control and Pesticides Division has a Pesticide Disposal Assistance Program that can aid farmers with safely disposing of flooded pesticides.
And in the midst of all of this, the division is preparing to open the N.C. State Fair on Thursday afternoon. Only one vendor is unable to attend. Hurricane Matthew will have a visible effect on the competitive areas, as many competitors were impacted by the hurricane and unable to drop off exhibits before the deadline.