A number of state and federal agencies are joining the Clemson Cooperative Extension Service in South Carolina to help farmers handle crops impacted by flood waters. In early October, Hurricane Joaquin contributed to historic rainfall totals throughout the Carolinas.
“We have put together a fact sheet of common sense tips that will go far toward making sure that harvested crops are properly handled, and Clemson Extension is on the ground in affected areas to assist farmers and answer their questions,” said Julie Northcutt, professor and Cooperative Extension Food Safety and Nutrition Program team leader.
In some cases, floodwaters can contain contaminants that negatively impact the environment. Crops that come into contact with the water may not be suitable for harvest.
“The FDA doesn’t recognize any method of saving or reconditioning crops where the edible portion is exposed to floodwaters,” Northcutt continued. “Our farmers know this and are taking precautions to ensure that flooded crops are handled properly. This includes minimizing contact between flooded and non-flooded crops.”
Some crops may be recoverable if the edible portion does not develop until after floodwater exposure. Soil samples can be used to determine if certain crops are safe for eating.
Local farmers and gardeners are being advised to discard all produce that was submerged under floodwater. Additionally, harvesters are being encouraged to fully cook any produce that may have been contaminated by the water. Producers should not plant in fields that have seen floodwater for at least 60 days.
Lastly, all farm equipment that has been used in flooded fields should be thoroughly cleaned to prevent cross-contamination.