Hurricane Ian May Take a Large Toll on Florida Agriculture
(ConservativeHub.com) – Hurricanes always destroy things in their paths, but a superstorm comes along every few years that’s especially damaging. Hurricane Ian, a whopper of a storm, made landfall in Florida on September 28. While experts are still crunching the numbers, they believe it caused up to $1.56 billion in losses to the state’s agricultural industry alone.
University of Florida Estimates Farm Losses
The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences at the University of Florida believes the state’s food growers will take losses totaling between $786.6 million and $1.56 billion. Those hardest hit include farmers who grow melons, citrus fruits, and vegetables. The historic hurricane passed over around 4.77 million acres of farmland, devastating the fruits on most of it.
It’s not just the destroyed crops affecting these numbers. Citrus grower Roy Petteway told the Associated Press how the heavy floods and sustained rains damaged the orange trees themselves, including their roots systems, making him unsure if they can bounce back next year to produce well again. This uncertainty could be a significant issue for an industry producing around $6 billion annually in citrus crops like tangerines, grapefruits, and oranges, according to The Washington Post.
Christa Court, director of the UF/IFAS Economic Impact Analysis Program, delivered a statement saying it could be weeks before more solid numbers calculating the damage are available. There are many “unknowns” to account for as experts assess the damage, she pointed out.
Other Factors Affected by Ian
Plants need various things to thrive: sun, soil, water, and pollinators. If even one of these goes awry, growers can easily lose a crop. The University of Florida estimates Hurricane Ian hit approximately 380,000 bees, AP News reports. Many of these colonies and hives may not have survived the storm, or if they did, the surviving bees might attack nearby hives attempting to obtain enough honey to survive the winter.
The US Department of Agriculture calculated Florida’s citrus production this growing season was already down 32% from the previous year. As real estate expands, farms undergo damage from these storms, and a greening fungus disease spreads, this number will likely only continue to dwindle in future years. In turn, the scarcity will push prices of whole fruits and their juices, which are already affected by the record-high inflation, even higher.
Will Farmers Overcome the Looming Challenges?
Many orange growers see this challenge and know they will survive and end up on the other side. Farmers often face down blights, diseases, and natural disasters that hit their livelihood, but they keep feeding American families. For Petteway, a fifth-generation farmer and rancher, his son, and others, it’s a way of life.
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