Georgia Department of Agriculture gives update on Hurricane Idalia response and damage assessments
On Wednesday, Aug. 30, Hurricane Idalia made landfall in Florida as a Category 3 Hurricane then quickly moved into Georgia as a Category 2 Hurricane, bringing strong winds and heavy rainfall across much of south Georgia.
The Georgia Department of Agriculture (GDA) has received reports of damage to crops, pecan trees, agricultural operations and infrastructure, and other GDA-regulated entities across South Georgia. GDA staff is continuing to survey and assess the damage caused by Hurricane Idalia and is beginning the recovery process.
“As a seventh-generation farmer, I know firsthand the devastating impacts severe weather can have not only on our farmers and producers but on rural communities, local economies, and our state’s economy as a whole,” says Agriculture Commissioner Tyler Harper. “Since Monday, we’ve been onsite at the State Operations Center monitoring Hurricane Idalia, and our team and I are on the ground in south Georgia assessing the damage and speaking directly with impacted farmers, producers, and business owners. We are working overtime, in coordination with our state and federal partners, to ensure farmers, producers, and other GDA licensed operations impacted by Idalia have the resources they need to recover and bounce back stronger than before.”
Across multiple divisions and programs, the GDA licenses and regulates approximately 13,000 businesses located in the area impacted by Hurricane Idalia.
These GDA divisions and programs include: Law Enforcement & Emergency Management Division, Animal Industry Division, Companion Animal/Equine Program, Livestock & Poultry Program, Georgia Meat Inspection Service, Food Safety Division, Food & Feed Rapid Response Team (RRT), State Agriculture Response Team (SART), Retail Food Program, Animal Health Division, Office of the State Veterinarian, Agricultural Inputs Division, and Fuel & Measures Division.
These divisions and their staff will continue to provide recovery assistance to Georgia farmers and GDA licensed entities that have been impacted.
Department staff are taking a risk-based approach, starting with businesses and operations in areas that experienced the most severe winds and flooding and working outwards. The department will continue to work with farmers and business owners on the ground, industry leaders, and UGA Extension, as well State and Federal leadership to ensure the needs of every Georgian are met and that they have the resources needed to recover.
Initial Damage Assessments and Response
It is still very early in the assessment process, below is an initial summary of observed and reported damage. This is subject to change as new information comes to light and the Department of Agriculture will provide updates as available. It will likely take weeks, if not months, to understand the full scope of the damage.
Crops & Agricultural Operations/Facilities:
- Multiple reports of downed pecan trees throughout the impacted area (Pierce, Echols, Lowndes, Cook, Brooks, Wilcox, Irwin, Ben Hill, and Crisp Counties – possibly more).
- Reports of pecan crop loss throughout the impacted area.
- Multiple reports of tobacco crop on the ground unable to be harvested and likely loss of tobacco crop left in the field.
- Some produce damage with produce plastic torn and ripped up in some areas.
- Field corn down and in some cases not able to be harvested, likely resulting in loss of corn still left in fields.
- Sweet corn laid down in the field.
- Some cotton twisted but likely recoverable.
- Minimal pine tree/forestry damage observed or reported.
- Hay barns, sheds, and other agricultural facilities mangled or torn down.
- Reports of irrigation pivots twisted and/or turned over.
- Power outages at livestock, dairy, and poultry facilities.
Georgia Department of Agriculture Facilities:
- Valdosta State Farmer’s Market sustained roof damage
- Savannah State Farmer’s Market without power, no other damage reported
GDA Regulated Facilities:
- Assessment of GDA Food Safety regulated facilities will start today.
- Multi-agency Food & Feed Rapid Response Teams (RRT) have been activated as well as the State Agricultural Response Team (SART).
- GDA Food Safety has developed an emergency response online self-reporting form for regulated entities to report damage.
- Food Safety will assess and address damage on a risk-basis to ensure the safety and security of the food supply in impacted areas.