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Kentucky's spring planting season hindered by tornado debris

Jeanna Glisson
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Kentucky’s agriculture commissioner says farmers will likely have flat tires for years to come following December's tornadoes.

Debris in fields is a major issue as spring planting season begins this month.

As farmers prepare to till their soil, some are encountering metal, nails, and glass shards in fields that could end up damaging equipment. Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles says storm debris is a hindrance as planting season gets underway in affected areas of western and southern Kentucky.

“One thing we’ve been trying to do at the county level is organize cleanup crews ranging from volunteers to inmates at jails, because even if a farm was unaffected by the tornado, chances are, they had debris land on their farm," Quarles said.

Last weekend, a work group gathered in Bremen to help local farmers clear debris. Muhlenberg County suffered at least a dozen deaths from tornadoes that touched down Dec. 10-11.

According to the USDA office in Warren County, farmers have until Mar. 18 to report their losses. While there’s no official damage estimate yet, Commissioner Quarles says the storm event will go down as the most expensive ever to Kentucky agriculture.

Kentucky’s poultry industry was hardest hit worst with more than 30 chicken barns destroyed, according to Quarles. Some 400 cattle were killed or had to be euthanized.

Many grain systems were destroyed, and Quarles adds the damage to fences will likely be $10 million.

On top of repairs and rebuilding, farmers are entering a planting season that didn’t exist a year ago with record high inflation, supply chain issues, and fertilizer twice as costly.

Kentucky farmers can share in $1.2 million through the state’s agricultural relief fund.

Farmers should contact the Kentucky Department of Agriculture to sign an affidavit attesting to storm damage, and then they can receive $1,500 in store credit at participating retailers.

Lisa is a Scottsville native and WKU alum. She has worked in radio as a news reporter and anchor for 18 years. Prior to joining WKU Public Radio, she most recently worked at WHAS in Louisville and WLAC in Nashville. She has received numerous awards from the Associated Press, including Best Reporter in Kentucky. Many of her stories have been heard on NPR.
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