Hurricane Idalia: Florida agricultural losses top $78M

Hurricane Idalia: Florida agricultural losses top $78M

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Hurricane Idalia: Florida agricultural losses top $78M

Hurricane Idalia inflicted at least $78.8 million in losses to Florida agriculture. The latest estimate, released Sept. 21 by the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS), indicates damage to Florida ag may go as high as $370.9 million. This wide range will be narrowed in a final report in coming months. Production losses from the storm, which blew ashore Aug. 29, were in Florida’s Big Bend region. 

These numbers do not include losses to Florida agriculture infrastructure. University of Florida economists indicate these figures do not place a value on infrastructure damage, which represents a large portion of the effects of Idalia.  

Losses to greenhouse and nursery crops in north Florida are estimated to range between $4.7 million to $68.8 million.  

Other commodity categories with higher predicted losses due to Hurricane Idalia included animals and animal products, with a damage range of $30.1 million to $123.4 million. This includes beef and dairy cattle, poultry, and shellfish aquaculture, as well as products like milk, eggs, and honey. Also suffering greatly were field and row crops, $30.7 million to $93.6 million.

The UF/IFAS Economic Impact Analysis Program’s assessment continues, but director Christa Court, assistant professor in the food and resource economics department, said some of the most reported impacts were to infrastructure, such as overturned center pivot irrigation systems, blown-off roofs and damaged fence lines.

“Although infrastructure damage certainly affects farmers’ bottom lines and occasionally production more directly – as is the case with livestock contained in fencing or buildings, or equipment that irrigates a crop,” Court said, “we are not currently able to adequately quantify these infrastructure damages due to a lack of baseline data. However, we do believe that Idalia will help us gather critical information to build this baseline data for future assessments.”

Three million acres of agricultural lands were in the storm’s path, including row crops like peanuts and cotton, dairy and poultry farms, aquaculture operations and more. 

Hurricane Idalia’s strength was concentrated in its center. The areas directly surrounding where the eye passed – portions of Dixie, Hamilton, Lafayette, Madison, Suwannee, and Taylor counties – experienced Category 2- to 3-force winds; while the areas outside that center path saw a drop-off of windspeeds that maxed out at tropical-storm strength. As such, impacts to agricultural operations in the swath affected by Idalia ranged from major to almost nothing.

“Each storm brings different windspeeds and rainfall, and even though our methods allow us to estimate a credible range of losses given certain characteristics of a storm, we still rely on first-hand reports to fully understand the losses and damages caused by a particular storm,” said Xiaohui Qiao, research assistant professor in the UF/IFAS food and resource economics department and data analyst for EIAP.

To arrive at agricultural loss estimates, the EIAP uses several layers of data gathered from multiple sources. The complex process includes overlaying the storm’s path, windspeeds, rainfall and flooding with the acreage, value and seasonality of the agricultural commodities grown or raised in the counties affected by the storm. This overlay is combined with information about how different commodities are affected by particular storm conditions. Finally, the economists refine their estimates using survey responses submitted by affected agricultural producers and Florida Cooperative Extension faculty.

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