Persistent rainfall this year has saturated a lot of farms in the county, causing a delay in harvest and projected losses of 35 to 50 percent of the two largest producing crops, peanuts and cotton, according to agricultural experts.
County farm agencies met last week to discuss the possibility of declaring the county a disaster area, according to County Executive Director for the Santa Rosa and Escambia County Farm Services Agency Travis Kelley.
"As of the day of the meeting, we had 46 inches of rain to that day," Kelley said. "That's normally not a bad thing, because we usually have some large rain events in this area. But when you get one to three inches of rain a day, it affects commodities."
The state overall saw the wettest July on record, according to meteorologists. A torrential rain event around the July 4 weekend saturated fields in the county. Rainfall persisted, washing away fertilizer and insecticide, choked plants of oxygen necessary to survive and left pools of stagnant water in some fields.
There are around 400 full-time farmers in county, which employ around 1,200 people, Kelley said. If the weather pattern continues, and fields don't have time to dry out, there could be very significant losses.
"Total agricultural products bring in $70 million a year," Kelly said. "The biggest percent of that is spent in Santa Rosa County. We don't have any corporate farms. They're putting it into the county here."
Cotton is projected to have a 50 percent loss in the county's 19,538 planted acres, surmounting to a $7 loss. Projections show a 35 percent loss of the 19,054 acres of peanuts in the county, leading to a potential $6 million loss. Kelly said that's just $13 million on the top two crops. That doesn't account for soy beans, corn and other smaller producing commodities.
The county farm service agency is focusing on getting a primary designation that would allow farmers to apply for low-interest loans of 1.5 percent, which are difficult to get, which would allow farmers to spread losses across seven years.
Kelley said he feels confident that the county will see relief, based on the projected losses.