Ag News

Hurricane Michael ravages Georgia farms

Hurricane Michael leveled a catastrophic blow to Georgia agriculture, destroying crops, killing livestock, mangling farm buildings and equipment, toppling many trees and snapping off many others mid-trunk. The swath of damage ranged across the state from the southwest corner of the state on a northeasterly track.

According to UGA Professor of Agricultural and Applied Economics Jeff Dorfman, agricultural losses exceeded $2 billion as of Oct. 22. The severity and range of the damage drew national attention, with both President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence visiting the affected areas.

“With Hurricane Michael making landfall last week, the damage Georgia has experienced will leave a lasting effect on our state. As we continue to assess damage, Georgia Farm Bureau is on the ground to help begin the recovery and rebuilding process for Georgians impacted by this tragedy,” GFB President Gerald Long said. “While debris can be cleared away and structures rebuilt, we must continue to pray for the farmers who have lost entire crops, poultry houses, farm equipment and livestock.”

In Brinson, Decatur County Farm Bureau Director Glenn Heard rated his cotton crop as a total loss and was left scrambling to arrange services at the Brinson Farm Supply peanut buying point, where the grading shed and multiple drying sheds were destroyed.

Before he could deal with all that, he first had to clear roads around the buying point and his farm office across the street.

“Every road in the county was impassable,” Heard said. “We couldn’t begin to do anything until we were able to get our employees here.”

Heard’s cotton was a tangled mess of stalks with the bolls of cotton fiber blown off, a scene repeated at numerous farms over 13 counties in the southeast corner and in varying degrees in areas farther along the path of the storm. According to the National Agricultural Statistics Service, the storm’s path covered more than 99 percent of the state’s cotton production and more than 99 percent of the state’s peanut production.

Much of the cotton crop loss – estimated between $550 million and $600 million – happened in the fields. According to Dorfman, peanut losses are estimated between $10 million and $20 million. Much of the state’s peanut crop had been dug, and the storm blew the plants out of windrows in some cases.  The peanut crop loss is compounded by the damage done to peanut industry facilities, from buying points to warehouses, where several had metal roofing stripped off, exposing mounds of peanuts inside.

The state’s pecan crop, much of which is concentrated in Southwest Georgia, sustained an estimated $560 million in losses, including $100 million to this year’s crop, $260 million worth of trees loss and $200 million in lost income over the next decade while replacement trees grow to productive maturity.

Georgia vegetable growers lost $480 million worth of crops.

The Georgia Forestry Commission indicated timber producers lost trees on two million acres resulting in a $374 million total loss.

Almost 100 poultry houses were destroyed, leaving more than two million dead chickens. In addition to the production loss and structural damage, poultry producers faced disposing of the birds.

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