S.C. farmers faring better than a year ago

Despite downpours in some parts of the state, South Carolina's corn, peaches and other crops are faring better than average this summer, reports show.

Despite some torrential rain across South Carolina this past week, the state's farmers are having a far better season than last year.

Aaron Wood, assistant commissioner with the S.C. Department of Agriculture, said most parts of the state are within 3 inches of their normal rainfall for this time of year.

"The general takeaway is most all of the crops are on schedule or slightly ahead as far as progress goes," he said. "Pretty much everything is being reported in fair to excellent condition."

Last summer, heavy rains wreaked such havoc that Wood's boss, Agricultural Commissioner Hugh Weathers and Gov. Nikki Haley made a special trip to Pendarvis Farms in Harleyville to highlight farmers' plight and seek federal help.

At that time, 36 of the state's 46 counties had suffered crop losses of more than 30 percent. The hardest hit were wheat, soybeans, cotton, forage crops and peaches.

Cullen Bryant, a Dillon farmer whose crops include cotton, soybeans, peanuts and corn, said this year is progressing much better than 2013, when nine of every 10 farmers experienced below normal yields.

But Bryant cautioned that some individual farmers could be having a tough time.

"It depends on where you're located," he said. "In some areas early on, we had a little bit too much rain, and there's a big difference in the amount of rainfall we've had in the county from one side to another. ... It can vary dramatically just within a few miles span."

Wood agreed, noting his rain gauge in Columbia showed 4.5 inches fell this weekend, while some in neighboring Lexington County received less than an inch.

Wood said the state's farmers have been helped by this summer's relatively cooler temperatures, and this year's main problem appears to be some pastureland in poor condition around the western part of the state, particularly in Anderson, Abbeville, Greenwood, McCormick and Saluda counties.

"A lot of our largest cattle producing areas are in the Piedmont part of the state - and the west central part of the state has been the dry spot," he said, adding, most of the state's rainfall is at average or a couple of inches above average from the year.

Wood said the state is nearing the end of its summer growing season, "and fall crops won't be ready for a little bit longer. We're sort of in the middle here, and the rain has not really affected the crops too much."

Bryant said while things look good so far, that could change.

"If there's a big change in weather, we could end up with poor yields or the loss of crops or whatever," he said. "It's all pretty much what the good Lord seems to send to us."

Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.