Florida’s agriculture industry took a hard hit from Hurricane Irma.
Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam says the damage caused by wind and water “is extensive.”
Putnam says in southwest Florida, in what is now one of the largest growing areas in the state for citrus, losses to the citrus crop are estimated to be 70 percent or more. He says that kind of loss to an industry that has already seen its production cut as a result of disease and population growth, is significant.
“A 70 percent crop loss on a crop that is 70 percent smaller than it was 20 years ago presents a unique and existential threat to the industry and to the processing capacity of the state,” Putnam said.
Putnam took an aerial tour of the region on Wednesday and said he saw thousands of acres still under water.
“Citrus trees can not tolerate wet roots and we will continue to see these number of losses grow over time as we will see not only fruit on the ground, but trees dying off as well,” Putnam added.
The commissioner says the longer the water sits on the root systems of the citrus treesthe greater number of trees will be lost.
Putnam says the sugarcane crop was flattened by the strong winds of Irma which will make it more expensive to harvest. He says some of the crop has been lost.
As for the vegetable crop, Putnam says that industry is in “tatters.” The commissioner says growers will have to quickly replant their vegetable crops in South Florida in order to harvest crops by the peak holiday season later this year. He says a number of the growers won’t be able to replant in time to produce a crop for the holiday harvest..
The landscape and nursery industry has suffered what Putnam calls “massive damage” to greenhouses. He compares the losses to those seen after Hurricane Andrew hit South Florida 25 years ago. He says it will take nurseries some time to rebuild.
One area of the agriculture industry that Putnam says was not hit hard by Irma is livestock.
“The agriculture industry is pretty resilient. Floridians are resilient,” Putnam stressed. “We’ve been through these types of things before.”