Cost estimates for the damage to Georgia Agriculture after Hurricane Michael are well over $1 billion, according to a new report from Georgia Agricultural Commissioner Gary Black.
Hurricane Michael was the first major hurricane to hit Georgia since the 1800s. It moved through southwest Georgia last week after slamming into the Florida Panhandle.
It destroyed crops, in places ripping entire pecan trees out of the ground. Some South Georgia farmers lost their entire livelihoods in just one day.
Black called the losses unprecedented and said they will impact generations to come.
“Unfortunately, our worst thoughts were realized. We saw months and sometimes years of work just laid over on the ground in a matter of seconds,” Black said. “These are generational losses that are unprecedented and it will take unprecedented ideas and actions to help our farm families and rural communities recover.”
On Tuesday, Vice President Mike Pence toured the damage, pledging support to help communities rebuild.
“It’s not going to go unnoticed in this administration and we’re going to make sure the people of this region will have the support to rebuild," Pence said.
Here’s the new breakdown of the devastation by crop release Wednesday by the Georgia Department of Agriculture:
COTTON: $300 MILLION to $800 MILLION -- Cotton was the second highest contributor to Georgia’s farmgate value last year, contributing just over 7 percent. The final loss estimate will be dependent on farmers’ ability to harvest what remains in the field. Georgia had the potential of record yields for this year, so this loss is even more devastating.
PECAN: $560 MILLION -- Pecan trees that were blown over or broken are a severe, generational loss for farmers. It takes about seven years for a tree to begin producing nuts, and there is 100 percent crop loss in Seminole County, 85 percent in Decatur County and 30 percent in Grady County. Pecan farmers will take a decade to recover from the loss of a mature tree, and many of these farmers were still recovering from Irma when Michael rolled through.
VEGETABLES: $480 MILLION -- Vegetables affected include sweet corn, cucumbers, squash, peppers, peas and more. Georgia is home to a wide variety of produce, much of which was affected by the high winds and hard rains of Michael. After Hurricane Florence, prices were elevated so this enhanced the loss estimate because Georgia was in a very good position to supply the market prior to Hurricane Michael. This comes as a blow to growers who had a difficult spring harvest and were counting on the fall.
POULTRY: $25 MILLION -- Poultry is Georgia’s leading agricultural industry, contributing nearly 32 percent of the state’s 2018 farmgate value in broilers and an additional 5.62 percent in eggs. Michael will make a lasting impact on this poultry industry with the loss of 97 houses and well over 2 million chickens.
PEANUTS: $10 MILLION to $20 MILLION -- While peanuts fared better than many other crops, infrastructure loss remains uncertain. The final loss estimate will be impacted by the ability to get the remaining peanuts out of the field and into storage facilities. The grading and sorting of these peanuts will play a large part of determining the final loss. Peanuts contributed nearly 5 percent of Georgia’s 2018 farmgate value.
AGRITOURISM: Fall is typically the most important season for many agritourism sites, as it includes activities like corn mazes and pumpkin patches that bring many families and school field trips to the farms. Multiple mazes have been destroyed in addition to other farm damage. The loss estimate will be difficult to determine, even after the season is over.
TIMBER: $1 BILLION -- Approximately 1 million acres were destroyed, most belonging to small or private landowners.
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