Florida Crop Losses Mired in the Millions Following Hurricane Michael

Florida Crop Losses Mired in the Millions Following Hurricane Michael

So, how hard did Hurricane Michael hit Florida agriculture? According to UF/IFAS economists, the historic storm caused production losses totaling $158 million! The startling figure represents lost sales revenue that producers would have received during the 2018-2019 growing season if the storm hadn’t impacted them.

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What the analysis did not address is clean-up costs, repair, and replacement costs for damaged property, medical, and veterinary expenses, or any long-term economic effects of Hurricane Michael, explained Christa Court, Assistant Director of UF’s Economic Impact Analysis program.  “We needed to focus initially on developing the loss estimates needed for relief efforts, but we intend to continue to develop estimates for the broader economic impacts of the hurricane.”

The economic analysis team calculated crop loss estimates for 25 Florida counties, for commodities that included field crops, row crops, vegetables, fruits, tree nuts, greenhouse, and nursery crops, as well as beef, dairy, poultry, and other animal products, Court confirmed. She said county-level estimates will be released soon.

In addition, researchers from the UF/IFAS Mid-Florida Research and Education Center (MREC) are lending a hand and using drones to assess the damage. “This is the first time UF/IFAS scientists have used drones to determine agricultural crop damage and yield reduction,” stated Jim Fletcher, a regional specialized agent based at the MREC.

The most serious impacts from Hurricane Michael occurred in Bay, Calhoun, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Jackson, Liberty, and Washington counties, which experienced driving rain and hurricane-force winds of 111 to 155 miles per hour.

From high above, Fletcher and his colleagues are getting a better idea how far and wide the destruction reaches. “We estimate a 100% plant loss in tomatoes, peppers, and cotton,” he concluded.

“We were in the worst of the hurricane’s eye wall and we were hit hard,” says Gary Hennen, President of Oglesby Plants International in Altha, FL. “Most of our greenhouses were out of commission and one was destroyed. Our lab sustained roof and water damage. We were out of power until October 24. The damage could have been mistaken for a tornado.”

Staggering Stats

  • Nearly 1 million acres of agricultural crops, not including timber, were impacted
  • Specialty crops suffered significant losses, including $39 million for greenhouse, nursery, and floriculture production; $9 million for vegetables and melons; $4 million for fruits; and $3 million for tree nuts (including pecans).
  • Virtually all of the state’s cotton crop was wiped out, with losses totaling $51 million on more than 145,000 impacted acres. When the hurricane made landfall in Bay County on Oct. 10, more than 90% of the crop remained in the field.
  • More than 245,000 acres of peanuts were impacted, resulting in losses of $22 million.
  • Field corn, which saw a 100% loss on many farms where harvesting was not already completed, had more than 66,000 acres impacted and losses totaling $5 million.
  • The oat crop in the region had losses totaling $600,000, with more than 30,000 acres impacted.
  • Hay had the greatest acreage impacted – a total of 247,000 acres, with losses of $2 million.

In addition, the Florida Forest Service estimated the state’s timber losses at $1.29 billion for pine, mixed upland hardwood, and bottom land hardwood timber across a total of 2.81 million acres. Court explained these figures represent timber that would normally be harvested over several years.