Bleak outlook for Florida agriculture after Irma

Hurricane Irma didn’t just rain on Florida’s agriculture industry – it poured.

The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) painted a bleak picture for Florida crops in a Tuesday presentation to the House Agriculture and Property Rights Subcommittee.

Irma caused an estimated $2.5 billion in damage. Grace Lovett, FDACS’ legislative affairs director, said the damage was in addition to losses from citrus greening, already responsible for a 70 percent reduction in Florida citrus over the last decade.

Florida’s citrus wasn’t the only crop devastated.

The negative effects of the storm are starting to show in Florida’s overall produce shipping numbers. Florida fruit and vegetable shipments for September stalled at just 192,200 25-pound cartons, a staggering 76 percent decrease from the past four-year average. 

Okra shipments in September were limited to just 6,400 25-pound cartons. The previous four-year average for that crop was 40,000 cartons.

“The path of Irma could not have been more lethal to Florida’s agriculture,” Lovett told lawmakers. She says the department is working with Florida’s congressional delegation for a relief package.

For reference of what the state could expect, she cited 2004—the year notable hurricanes like Charley, Frances and Ivan passed through Florida—when a $500 million federal hurricane recovery program was created for Florida farmers.

Lovett also said Gov. Rick Scott and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam were in Washington, D.C. today. Florida’s congressional delegation on Friday called for $27 billion worth of federal relief.

Currently, total crop losses are estimated at a little over $2 billion; total losses to production agriculture are estimated at  more than $2.5 billion. Here’s the breakdown:

— Citrus: $760,816,600

— Beef Cattle: $237,476,562

— Dairy: $11,811,695

— Aquaculture: $36,850,000

— Fruits and Vegetables (excluding citrus): $180,193,096


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