Flood-Weary Florida Panhandle Farmers Assessing Damage

University of Florida IFAS Extension officials in the state’s Panhandle are working quickly to help agricultural producers harmed by torrential rains earlier in the week.


In northern Escambia County, where much of the county’s agricultural production is based, wind and rain had caused some wheat to fall over, but as of Wednesday afternoon, growers weren’t yet convinced it would cause significant yield reduction, said Libbie Johnson, the county’s Extension agent specializing in agriculture and natural resources.

Northern Okaloosa County growers reported receiving between 10 and 19 inches of rain during the Tuesday night-to-Wednesday morning storms, said Okaloosa County UF/IFAS Extension agent Jennifer Bearden, and that the biggest damages were in erosion and nutrient leaching.
Most of the corn there was expected to be lost to erosion and standing water, though wheat plantings fared better with less lodging than expected, she said. Strawberries were already stressed and will be further affected, she noted.

The biggest problem overall, the region’s UF/IFAS Extension officials reported, is that the rain compounded the existing issue of delayed spring planting. Cold, wet ground that wasn’t ready to support crops was drenched yet again, meaning growers still cannot get into fields to prepare the ground, delaying corn, peanut and cotton crops.

In Jackson County, County Extension Director Doug Mayo said delayed production was the biggest problem there, as well.

April brought between 18 and 20 inches of rain to Jackson County, which is above average. But because of the rain’s timing throughout the month, there was never time for fields to dry out so growers could prepare for planting before the rains hit again, he said.

“We’ve just stayed in flux,” Mayo said. “And it’s delayed everything.”

Mayo was still gathering information from growers late in the week. At the UF/IFAS research center in Jay, he said officials would likely need to replant corn.

UPDATE: May 5, 2014

Governor Rick Scott has requested a Presidential disaster declaration for flooding that impacted the Panhandle