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USA - Michael damage could top $1 billion to Georgia agriculture

As Hurricane Michael blasted into the Florida Panhandle, South Georgia agriculture prepared for the worst as the storm caught cotton, peanuts, pecans and other crops at their most vulnerable stages.

Devastating crop damage is anticipated. University of Georgia agricultural economist Jeff Dorfman estimates crop damage as high as $1 billion. Cotton losses could top $600 million; peanut growers could lose $150 million; pecan growers face $200 million in losses, and $30 million of soybeans are at risk.

Dorfman says the hurricane is “threatening some of Georgia’s most valuable crops right at the most crucial moment. Cotton is mostly still in the field, but the bolls are open and exposed to the rain and wind. Peanut harvest is a little farther along, but some nuts have been dug, but not harvested, meaning they are at risk of mold and severe quality loss.

“Pecan harvest has barely started and the crop could be blown off trees, plus farmers could lose trees that take a decade to replace at a cost of almost $10,000 per acre.

“Hopefully, losses will be smaller than these estimates, but overall Michael picked a very bad time to visit Georgia,” Dorfman says.

Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary W. Black says the hurricane will hit at a precarious time for Georgia crops.

“Michael is barreling deep through the heart of Georgia’s agriculture and with only 5 percent of pecan, 15 percent of cotton, 30 percent of vegetables and 50 percent of peanut harvest completed, the risk for damage to those crops is certainly at a peak.  We must also consider the potential of damage to our poultry and dairy farmers in the path of the storm.

“We will move rapidly with other state and federal partners to determine the extent of our losses and provide assistance throughout the recovery process. Our farm families will need help. They need our prayers immediately.”

Commissioner Black says the Department will aid the state’s food industry.

“Our Rapid Response Team is poised to assist over 900 licensed food sales establishments and processors in the storm zone with their efforts to safely reopen for business. Our team has worked with public and private partners to open 14 pet shelters. Fuel and Measures professionals are working to ensure the integrity of the fuel supply.”

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