Environment

Gov. Matt Bevin has requested an emergency disaster declaration for Kentucky farmers after September’s severe storms battered Kentucky agriculture marring the quality and the yield for this season’s crops.

In a letter to the United States Department of Agriculture, Bevin said high winds wrecked crops and buildings while added moisture encouraged fungus, mold and disease. Bevin cited reports of significant losses and discounted market prices for this season’s crops.

“We are grateful to Secretary Perdue and the USDA for considering this request to provide our hardworking farmers with much-needed assistance in the aftermath of an extraordinarily challenging weather year,” Bevin said in a statement.

An approval from the USDA would allow affected farmers to receive low interest loans to help them recover.

Louisville’s farmers have had a particularly wet year. Already, 57 inches of rain have fallen since January, surpassing the average by more than 20 inches.

Some of the rains were helpful to farmers, but not all. Nearly 11 inches of rain fell in Louisville during the month of September.

“We had a good growing season, crops looked really well until now, when you start to harvest them,” said Butler, who runs a 600-acre farm in Southeast Jefferson County.

Butler counts himself one of the lucky ones. The damage to his soy crop has only cost him about 70 cents per bushel. Other farmers he knows have lost $2 to $3 per bushel, he said.

“We’ve got guys that their corn, after so much moisture, their corn was starting to mature in the shuck and it’s sprouting in the shuck and they’re not wanting to accept it,” Butler said.

A changing climate will present new benefits and challenges for farmers like Butler.

Warming will increase growing seasons, and carbon dioxide concentrations that tend to increase crop yield, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

But at the same time, the weather will become more unpredictable as we move closer to the end of the century. Droughts and dry soil can reduce crop yields while severe storms can have impacts like those seen this year, and worse.

Butler said he’s had to learn to change with the weather, but enjoys the challenge nonetheless.

“Yea the weather is not like it was 20 some years ago. Of course we’ve got different types of hybrid seeds and everything else…” he said. “So everything changes, you just have to learn to change with it.”

Ryan Van Velzer is WFPL's Energy and Environment Reporter.