Crops lost

Published 9:30 am Friday, January 14, 2011

FRANKLIN—It will take Richard Cutchins four good growing seasons to make up the money he lost in crops on his 900-acre farm due to last summer’s drought.

While the Hunterdale-area farmer’s cotton, soybean and peanut harvests were two-thirds lower than average, Cutchins wasn’t alone. The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services announced Thursday corn, soybeans, peanuts, cotton and hay yields were significantly lower in 2010 compared to one year earlier.

Across the state, the cotton harvest was down 52 percent, soybeans 33 percent and peanut production 27 percent, according to a news release from the Department of Agriculture.

The boards of supervisors from Southampton and Isle of Wight counties in July recommended to Gov. Bob McDonnell that their municipalities be declared disaster areas. Combined losses at the time for corn, pasture and hay harvest totaled $7.2 million. The total monetary loss for the season could not be obtained Thursday.

A row-crop farmer for 50 years, Cutchins believes 2010 was one of the worst years ever due to the lack of rain.

“We were in one of the worst spots,” he said. “Some spots got rain. Capron got some rain.”

Cutchins said he harvested 300 to 400 pounds of cotton per acre compared to 1,000 to 1,200 on an average year. Instead of harvesting 40 bushels of soybeans per acre, he got 13 per acre. And this year’s harvested 1,500 pounds of peanuts per acre can’t touch the 4,500 pounds per acre he normally picks.

Cutchins will begin planting around April 20 and he’ll be hoping for rain.

“You’ve got to have normal crop (harvests) to pay back what you lost,” Cutchins said.

Although he had crop insurance, which should cover about 65 percent of his loss, farmer Walter Young said it’s not a “money making venture.”

“Insurance pretty much gets you through a situation like this one,” said Young, who lost 90 percent of his corn, 65 percent of his soybeans and 75 percent of his peanuts from his fields that lie between Courtland and Franklin.

“Mentally and spiritually, you have to have a lot of faith,” Young said about coping with his losses. “Monetarily, I’m understanding most of the creditors are trying to work with you to get through it and to settle up with crop insurance. People are willing to work with you, which is good. We just have to see how that will shake out.”

He’s hoping for a normal year in 2011.

“What is a normal year? I don’t know, but a normal year would be great,” Young said.