AUBURN UNIVERSITY, Ala.—Hurricane Dorian dumped rainfall along the East Coast and many are left dealing with floodwaters and crop damage—especially food crop producers.
Kristin Woods, an Alabama Extension regional food safety agent, said food crop producers are in a situation that is relatively rare.
“Preparing for or reacting to flooding in terms of keeping food safe is not something that is typically planned for,” Woods said. “Food crop producers should understand and develop a proactive plan to respond to flooding.”
Floodwater has a different definition when it comes to food safety. It is important to understand that not all standing water in a field is floodwater.
Flooding is the flowing or overflowing of a field from open bodies of water outside the food crop producer’s control. Events that lead to pooling water or excess standing water in a field, such as rain or a problem with an irrigation system, are not considered flooding.
Floodwater may contain any number of different unknown hazards including sewage, chemicals, heavy metals, pathogenic (disease-causing) microorganisms, or other contaminants. The contamination risk is lower in cases where water is pooling from a known source.
Emergency Response Plan
A new comprehensive resource guide developed by Extension scientists from across the Southeast is now available. Find Food Safety for Southern U.S. Food Crop Producers After Flooding by visiting Alabama Extension online.
“Our new publication provides a comprehensive set of resources for food crop producers,” Woods said. “In a disaster situation, we know that our producers are overwhelmed with tasks that must be accomplished to get their business up and running again.
“We hope that this new resource will make those tasks a little bit easier. The strong Extension collaboration across the region to produce the publication reflects our desire to do everything we can to support our agricultural community in times of need.”
Flood events can pose a significant public health risk. There is potential for microbial and chemical contamination even if a crop is not completely under water. Mold or toxins may develop—even after water has receded.
Plans Differ by Operation
Woods said recovery is different for every farm and situation.
“The first step is to assess the risk presented by that particular flooding event,” she said. “Farmers should assess the crops they have in the field, but also their water sources, fuel storage areas, and chemical storage areas to get an idea of the extent of the challenge they face.”
The publication was a collaboration of regional experts. Experts include:
- Kristin Woods, Alabama Cooperative Extension System, Auburn University
- Achyut Adhikari, School of Nutrition and Food Science, Louisiana State University AgCenter
- Alejandro Castillo, Department of Animal Science, Texas A&M AgriLife Research
- Travis K. Chapin, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida
- Jason Cleere, Department of Animal Science, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension
- Michelle D. Danyluk, Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, Citrus Research and Education Center, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida
- Audrey Gamble, Department of Crop, Soil and Environmental Sciences, Alabama Cooperative Extension System, Auburn University
- Matthew Taylor, Department of Animal Science, Texas A&M AgriLife Research