The Georgia and Florida agriculture industries are reeling from the devastating blow Hurricane Michael dealt last week. The storm made landfall at nearly a Category 5 hurricane with sustained winds of 155 mph, making it the third-strongest hurricane to hit the U.S. and the strongest in nearly 50 years. Significant, widespread damage already has been reported in the timber, poultry, peanut, dairy, cotton, tomato and aquaculture sectors.
“Our worst dreams, I believe, are being realized,” Georgia agriculture commissioner Gary Black said during a press briefing, adding that he saw pictures of a cotton producer's crop completely wiped out just one day after harvesting an “outstanding yield” of three bales per acre.
According to the Georgia Department of Agriculture (GDA), cotton -- the state's top row crop and ranked second in the nation -- suffered massive loss after damaging winds drove much of the fiber to the ground for a total loss or tangled the cotton, making it much harder to extract clean lint during the ginning process.
Southwest and central Georgia, mostly agricultural regions, were hit hardest, with livestock as well as crop operations sustaining significant damage, GDA reported.
Florida commissioner of agriculture Adam Putnam recently briefed Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue on the initial agricultural damage assessment for his state.
“Hurricane Michael devastated the Florida Panhandle, and the safety of all Floridians is our top priority. My heart goes out to those who lost loved ones, those who don't have a home to return to and those who have a long road ahead of them,” Putnam said. “While people are our highest priority at this time, I was asked to provide an early damage estimate to the Vice President and secretary.”
Putnam said at least 3 million acres of timber were affected by the storm, and numerous other commodities suffered severe damage.
“We'll continue to work with the industry and partners at the local, state and federal levels to fully assess the agricultural damage,” he said. “I appreciate the Administration's continued interest and concern regarding this crisis, as this is the second conversation I've had with Secretary Perdue regarding the state of Florida agriculture. We'll continue to do everything we can to help Florida agriculture recover from this catastrophic hurricane.”