Hurricane Michael agriculture damage expected to top $1.3 billion

Last week, the category 4 Hurricane Michael stormed across the Southeast U.S., hitting the coastal state of Georgia particularly hard. Of the $1.3 billion in damages to the agricultural industry that has been predicted, $1.2 billion is linked to Georgia alone.

“Michael’s impact has been the most widespread and devastating hurricane in recollection to impact Georgia’s agricultural industry,” Georgia’s Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black said in a statement. “Crops, animals and infrastructure have all taken a substantial loss.”

In Georgia and nearby Florida and Alabama, cotton, peanut and pecan crops are most predominant and suffered the worst damage.

“Hurricanes and cotton are like oil and water — they just don’t mix at all,” agronomist William Birdsong told CNBC. Only about 15% of Georgia’s cotton crop had been harvested before the storm struck, leaving the rest exposed to the destructive power of the wind and rain. Before the storm, many had been saying it would be a record year for cotton yield.

“We were at the most inopportune time for a storm to hit us, when cotton is being defoliated and the fivers are exposed on the plant and harvest has begun,” said Birdsong. “That’s when the cotton is most vulnerable to any kind of disastrous damage.”

On the animal side, more than two million chickens were likely lost when nearly 100 Georgia chicken houses were destroyed in 120 mile per hour winds.

Additionally, at least 3 million timber acres were damaged in Florida from the storm.

Michael arrived just a month after Hurricane Florence hit the area, causing the most havoc especially in North and South Carolina, just north of Georgia. Florence is estimated to have caused losses of 3.4 million chickens and turkeys, and 5,500 hogs. Cotton, tobacco and sweet potatoes were also damaged.

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