TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Hurricane Ian’s toll on Florida was high. From damaged infrastructure to wiped out homes and flooded roads, the storm’s path left wreck and ruin in its wake. While recovery is proceeding and relief is in progress, the Florida Department of Agriculture’s preliminary report on industry damage puts Hurricane Ian’s cost at nearly $2 billion for Florida farmers and agriculture.
The new FDACS report said the biggest losses were for citrus, fruits and vegetables, field crops (including sugarcane), horticultural crops, forestry, and animal and animal products, which includes dairy and aquaculture.
Overall, losses are estimated to be as high $1.89 billion, according to the FDACS report. Noting that 27 Florida counties are listed as disaster areas by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, FDACS reports the damage is split between lost crops and lost production and infrastructure.
“While today’s assessment is a preliminary snapshot of the losses to Florida agriculture, it is a critical first step in the process of securing federal disaster aid for our hard-working producers,” Florida Ag. Commissioner Nikki Fried said.
Broken down by category, here’s how the FDACS assessment places damage levels, when it comes to financial impact.
|Citrus||$416,905,273 to $675,529,404|
|Fruits and Vegetables||$153,722,214 to $230,583,321|
|Field Crops||$86,434,127 to $160,358,621|
|Horticultural Crops||$153,531,344 to $297,047,800|
|Animal and Animal Products||$337,385,791 to $492,051,186|
|Total||$1,180,714,303 to $1,888,305,886|
The Ag. Department’s report comes after the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences put out their estimate for Hurricane Ian’s impact on the state’s agriculture industry.
The university report said the hurricane impacted about 5 million acres of agricultural land, which collectively produce over $8.12 billion in a calendar year. The IFAS report is also preliminary. It focused on how Hurricane Ian impacted the different sectors of Florida’s agriculture industry.
“Agricultural losses might result from situations such as fruit drop in a citrus grove, a flooded field of vegetables, dumped milk at a dairy farm due to cold storage not being available during a power outage,” the report says, “or even a lower sales price for a rancher that had cattle that were not able to get the appropriate nutrition due to stress or flooded grazing lands.”
IFAS reported that the level of how “wet” the storm was added to the damages, with the heavy rain and “significant inland flooding,” as well as the hurricane’s speed. Overall, the seven days of researchers call accumulated precipitation from Sept. 24 to Sept. 30 gave Florida 20 inches of rainfall at the center of the storm, with up to 12 inches in other impacted areas.
“We believe that the production losses for agricultural producers (crops, livestock/aquaculture, and animal products) resulting from Hurricane Ian will likely be between $787 million and $1.56 billion,” the report said.
It made that estimate in consideration of Florida’s different planting and growing seasons, which acknowledged how some crops with multiple growing season had already started the planting process. Hurricane Ian’s landfall and damages led to effects on growing already in progress, acreage damage, and losses of crops that had already been planted.
Additionally, flood impacts are still uncertain and may take more time to be fully understood.
“There is also still significant uncertainty surrounding the impact of flooding on different types of agricultural land, which cannot be determined until fields have dried out and can be assessed, and which, in some cases, occurred in areas that were outside of the strongest wind speed zones,” IFAS said. “Depending on how long this process of drying out takes, there could be moderate to significant impacts to yield, grade, or quality of the crop that are not apparent at this point in time.”
FDACS said in their own damage assessment that more than 375,000 acres of citrus production were impacted by the hurricane’s strong winds. It said most of the affected areas have “significant production losses expected.” IFAS, similarly, said the citrus crop losses alone were estimated to be between $147 million to $304 million, though the local severity could vary based on the types of damage.
Ian’s impacts on citrus were particularly notable due to an already low citrus forecast. Before the hurricane hit, the U.S. Department of Agriculture had reported the Florida citrus production forecast had dropped to its lowest level since the 1940s.
With Florida groves hit by the storm’s wind and flooding, industry workers and owners won’t have a full accounting of the damage until December, according to previous statements from the USDA.
Costs for repair and replacement of damaged infrastructure were not factored into the IFAS report, according to the report authors, but include “damaged infrastructure such as fences, buildings, machinery, and lost or deceased animals can also be significant and would be in addition to the estimated production losses.”
The Dept. of Agriculture is working with federal lawmakers and officials to bring relief to Florida’s farmers following the storm. Aid applications from FEMA and the USADA are open, and Commissioner Fried said she would be working with state congressional leaders to help with recovery efforts.
“We will continue our close collaboration on the ground with industry partners to gain further insight into the depth and breadth of Ian’s damage,” Fried said. “As we move ahead on the road to recovery, I look forward to working with Florida’s Congressional Delegation and our U.S. Senators on a relief package to help restore Florida’s second largest industry.”