Losses to Georgia’s agriculture industry from Hurricane Michael damage could reach nearly $3 billion, according to state assessments.
Here’s a detailed breakdown of those estimates, provided by the Georgia Department of Agriculture using numbers compiled by the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service and Georgia Forestry Commission.
Cotton: $300 to $800 million
Cotton was the second highest contributor to Georgia’s farmgate value (the market value of a product minus transportation, marketing and other selling costs) 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.
Vegetables: $480 million
Vegetables affected include sweet corn, cucumbers, squash, peppers and peas. 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.
Pecans: $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.
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 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: Not yet calculated
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 on the farm. 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 was destroyed, most belonging to small or private landowners.