Hurricane Irma Toll on Florida Farming in the Billions

To no surprise by those still in the midst of cleaning up and recovering, the damage left behind by Hurricane Irma on Florida’s agriculture community is coming with a heavy price tag. State Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam announced preliminary agricultural damages caused by the storm in Florida total more than $2.5 billion.

The initial economic assessments account for current crop losses and ancillary losses, such as debris cleanup, damaged infrastructure, and animals’ long-term welfare affected by Irma. This preliminary assessment will change as new information becomes available, and it is not representative of any specific funding request.

The estimated economic agricultural damages, according to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ (FDACS) preliminary report, are broken down as follows:

  • Total Florida agriculture: $2,558,598,303.
  • Citrus: $760,816,600
  • Fruits and Vegetables (excluding citrus): $180,193,096
  • Greenhouse, Nursery, and Floriculture: $624,819,895
  • Sugar: $382,603,397
  • Field crops: $62,747,058
  • Beef Cattle: $237,476,562
  • Aquaculture: $36,850,000
  • Forestry: $261,280,000
  • Dairy: $11,811,695

Estimates included in the report are based on data obtained from the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service, the UF/IFAS “Impacts of Hurricane Irma on Florida Agriculture: Update #4 Report,” UF/IFAS crops budgets, Timber Damage Estimates prepared by the Florida Forest Service, and early surveys FDACS conducted with industry leaders and individual producers. 

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“Florida agriculture took it on the chin as Hurricane Irma pummeled the state, and the $2.5 billion in agricultural damages is only an initial assessment. We’re likely to see even greater economic losses as we account for loss of future production and the cost to rebuild infrastructure. We’re going to do everything within our power to support Florida agriculture as it recovers from Hurricane Irma’s devastation,” stated Putnam.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott has activated a $25 million Florida Citrus Emergency Loan Program to support citrus growers impacted by Hurricane Irma. The bridge loan program, managed by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO), will provide interest-free loans to citrus growers that experienced physical or economic damage during the storm. The application period will be open through November 30.

DEO will administer the Florida Citrus Emergency Loan Program in partnership with the Florida SBDC Network to provide cash flow to businesses damaged by a disaster. The interest-free loans will help bridge the gap between the time damage is incurred and when a business secures other financial resources, including payment of crop insurance claims or federal disaster recovery appropriations. Up to $25 million has been allocated for the program.

Citrus growers who maintain a citrus grove in production in any of Florida’s 67 counties affected by Hurricane Irma can apply for loans up to $150,000. These interest-free loans are granted in terms of up to one year. To be eligible, a grower must have been established prior to Sept. 4, 2017, and demonstrate economic injury or physical damage as a result of Hurricane Irma.

To complete an application by the deadline, or for more information on the program, visit Floridadisasterloan.org.

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