Hurricane Michael's impact on agriculture
Hurricane Michael swept through the South in early October, making landfall at Mexico Beach in Florida’s Panhandle on October 10, leaving behind much devastation in its wake. This was the strongest storm to hit the Florida Panhandle in recorded history. As of Thursday, October 18, at least 35 people have died as a result of the hurricane.
In terms of economic impacts, farmers were especially hit hard by the storm. According to the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and University of Florida, Hurricane Michael has impacted an estimated 1 million acres of field crops. Florida lost an estimated 40 percent of its peanut crop. Damage estimates at farms across Florida’s Panhandle that produce crops like winter vegetables, fruit and nuts, are ongoing (“Update on Florida Crop Damage Caused by Hurricane Michael,” October 15, 2018).
According to the Georgia Poultry Federation, the poultry industry annually contributes over $18.4 billion to the state’s economy each year. Hurricane Michael reportedly destroyed an estimated 84 chicken houses, holding more than 2 million chickens. This industry sector has reported the widespread power outages and losses.
Hurricane Michael caused an unprecedented level of damage to Georgia’s pecan industry. As reported by Southeast Farm Press, current estimates indicate that Hurricane Michael has caused losses as high as 50 percent of Georgia’s pecan crop, valued at $100 million. Due to the significant level of high-producing trees that were lost, Georgia’s pecan industry will feel the impact of this storm for years to come (“Hurricane Michael changed Georgia’s pecan industry,” October 17, 2018).
The Georgia Department of Agriculture is advising pecan growers to carefully evaluate pecan crops in flooded areas to determine if they are safe for human consumption.
Georgia is responsible for roughly one-third of the U.S. supply of pecans.
“Michael’s impact has been the most widespread and devastating hurricane in recollection to impact Georgia’s agriculture industry,” said Gary W. Black, commissioner, Georgia Department of Agriculture, in a prepared statement. “Crops, animals and infrastructure have all taken a substantial loss. We are not talking in terms of tens of millions, but hundreds of millions. From what I have seen so far, I believe there will be an overall impact of over one billion dollars out of Georgia’s economy.”