Farmers are being urged to take special precautions if Irene flooded their fields.
Jeff Senesac sold off his dairy herd in 2003 and converted his barn to board horses. There is still a lot of land, so he grows corn and soybeans to supplement his income. "Once we got the crops in and they got started growing they came in really well. It was going to be a real good year for beans and corn," he said.
But that was before Irene. "Once Irene came in, the flooding didn't really affect my corn per say, but it really, really hurt my beans. The water had a lot of silt in it, carried a lot of dirt load and I think it deposited it all on my beans," Senesac said.
Senesac is optimistic that he can still harvest a majority of the soybean crop. That's because while the stocks, leaves and the pods are all covered in silt, the beans inside are clean. But like many other farmers hit by flooding, what can be harvested will be messy and potentially dangerous depending on what kind of mold and bacteria are in the soil. "It's going to be awful dusty because when you harvest beans, the whole plant goes into the machine and the machine separates the beans from the pods and the stalks with air and screens, so the amount of dust is going to be tremendous," Senesac said.
That is why the Vermont Health Department is advising farmers to wear a dust mask, N-95 or higher, and nitrile gloves to wear under their work gloves.
"This is voluntary protection. If you have anyone working with you that you think might have a health issue or have trouble breathing, they probably should have a medical evaluation," said Julie Smith, a University of Vermont Extension Dairy Specialist.
UVM Extension has teamed up with the Vt. Health Department to get the word -- and the free masks and gloves -- out to farmers. "Extension was able to work with the Department of Health and get supplies that are now in UVM Extension offices around the state, so folks can stop by there and we are targeting farms that we know have flooded crops and saying hey, we have some materials for you and a fact sheet on how to use the respirator," Smith said.
It is recommended that masks be changed every 4 to 6 hours, or sooner, if it becomes difficult to breath through. The masks are designed to block the dust that could contain molds and bacteria that could be a health risk.