PBS and NPR for Southwest Florida
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Hurricane Ian caused one billion dollars in agriculture losses

Citrus trees on the ranch managed by Cliff Coddington which was damaged by Hurricane Ian.
Saul Martinez for NPR
Citrus trees on the ranch managed by Cliff Coddington which was damaged by Hurricane Ian.

Hurricane Ian caused an estimated $1 billion in agricultural-production losses, with the biggest hits to the citrus industry, along with growers of vegetables and melons, according to a new University of Florida report.

The report from the UF-Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences also doesn’t include damage to such things as buildings and equipment, which would increase the economic effects of the Category 4 storm that swept across the state in late September.

“These are estimates and some of these crops are not at their final harvest stage,” Christa Court, director of the UF/IFAS Economic Impact Analysis Program, said in a conference call Thursday. “So, it might remain to be seen what actually happens when they get to that final harvest. How close these estimates are and were some of the producers --- that were maybe very early in their planting season --- able to replant or able to delay their planting and get some of that in the ground.”

The report estimated overall production losses at $1.03 billion, including $247.1 million for citrus growers, $204.6 million for vegetable and melon growers and $195.4 million for the nursery and greenhouse industry,

The citrus estimate does not include such things as downed trees, Court said.

“I believe that it typically takes a grove about two or three years --- from hearing people comment on what happened from Hurricane Irma --- to get back to what they were before the storm,” Court said. “And I know that this event was slightly less impactful in terms of tree losses, again, based on what I'm hearing from the industry.”

The Department of Citrus anticipates requesting federal aid between $387 million and $635 million, including trying to recoup money related to lost trees.

Florida faces the smallest orange harvest since the 1935-1936 season. The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Wednesday released a revised forecast, which was 11 percent below an estimate released in January.

The UF report estimated that field and row crops sustained $130.2 million in production losses from Ian. Growers of non-citrus fruits took a $137.7 million hit, and losses of livestock and animal products were about $120 million.

A couple of weeks after Ian made landfall, the UF institute initially estimated industry losses at $786.6 million to $1.56 billion, with citrus losses between $146.9 million to $304.3 million.

The new report said estimated production losses topped $100 million in Hillsborough and Manatee counties and were between $50 million and $100 million in Polk, Hardee, DeSoto, Highlands, Hendry and Palm Beach counties.

In 2017, Hurricane Irma, which made landfall in the Florida Keys and moved up the state, inflicted an estimated $2.5 billion in agricultural losses, including $761 million in the citrus industry.

Court said it is difficult to compare the two storms, as university researchers changed the assessment process and Irma affected all but two counties in Florida.

Copyright 2023 WLRN 91.3 FM. To see more, visit WLRN 91.3 FM.

Jim Turner is a reporter for the News Service of Florida.