UF/IFAS forecasts a potential $1.56 billion hit to Florida agriculture due to Hurricane Ian

by | Oct 18, 2022


  • The combination of seasonal crops, livestock, nursery and aquaculture products potentially lost as a result of Hurricane Ian will likely be valued between $787 million and $1.56 billion, University of Florida economists predict
  • The estimate was released as part of a new document, “Preliminary Assessment of Agricultural Losses and Damages resulting from Hurricane Ian,” from the UF/IFAS Economic Impact Analysis Program

University of Florida economists are predicting a $787 million to $1.56 billion hit to Florida’s agriculture due to Hurricane Ian.

“Even though the coast – an area with comparatively less agricultural production than inland areas – bore some of the worst impacts of the storm, the strong winds and heavy rains battered a wide swath of the peninsula that includes over 5 million acres of agricultural land,” said Christa Court, director of the program and assistant professor in the UF/IFAS food and resource economics department. “This estimate only accounts for production losses, or changes in expected revenues for the current calendar or market year; citrus, for example, had not yet begun harvesting, and some fall vegetables, like tomatoes and peppers, were already planted.”

The estimate, “Preliminary Assessment of Agricultural Losses and Damages resulting from Hurricane Ian,” was released on Tuesday by the UF/IFAS Economic Impact Analysis Program, which analyzed a combination of seasonal crops, livestock, nursery, and aquaculture products impacted by Hurricane Ian. Of note, economists are forecasting that commodities that were already facing a lower expected production due to a hard freeze event in January are expected to sustain more significant production losses as a result of the Category 4 storm.

The report anticipates that vegetables and melons will see an expected hit of $208 million to $394 million, with impacts heavily dependent on the ability (or inability) to replant damaged or destroyed crops. Additionally, citrus crops are expected to take production losses of $147 million to $304 million, depending on the level of fruit drop, damage to branches, and impacts due to heavy precipitation and flooding.

UF/IFAS economists also predict that the livestock operations and producers of animal products are expected to suffer losses totaling $113 million to $222 million due to damaged fencing, power outages and flooding.

According to UF/IFAS, the total value of all the croplands that saw tropical storm or hurricane conditions topped $8.1 billion.

The UF/IFAS Economic Impact Analysis Program conducts assessments after any event that disrupts the standard operations of Florida’s agriculture industry. Surveys are deployed after natural disasters like hurricanes, floods and freezes, but have more recently included assessments of the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Court and her colleagues began collecting baseline data for agricultural losses and damages resulting from tropical cyclone events in 2016. Since then, the program has worked to improve its baseline and impact databases for these types of analyses.

Even with this comparison data available to the research team, the group noted that Hurricane Ian’s impacts remain complicated. The storm made landfall on Sept. 28, pummeling Florida’s Gulf Coast before cutting across toward the east coast. Hurricane Ian left a path of destruction across the Sunshine State, producing catastrophic flooding and storm surge while bringing hurricane-strengthwinds to nearly 1.2 million acres of agricultural lands.

“Southwest counties that got hit the hardest by Hurricane Ian have remained in rescue and recovery mode; we anticipate our assessments will not be complete for several weeks,” Court added. “Our preliminary estimate is a range, a wide range, to account for many of these unknowns. What isn’t destroyed might have diminished yield or quality, which will not be apparent for weeks or months, and then even more effects can appear in the long-term.”

To assist with the preliminary analysis, the UF/IFAS Economic Impact Analysis Program says it used data from multiple sources, in addition to its previous post-storm assessments. The National Hurricane Center’s imagery of the storm was combined with geospatial data from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) and information from USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (USDA-NASS) on croplands in the area, including the seasonal planting and harvest times.

The researchers then used additional information from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s United States Census of Agriculture, Ask IFAS, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Once the impacted agricultural acreages were determined, the team used a five-year average for value per acre of each commodity group to estimate the total “at-risk” production value across affected acres.

“Our goal is to provide a rapid assessment on a credible range of the potential losses associated with Hurricane Ian,” Court said. “As assessments are still ongoing, it’s not possible to narrow the range further at this time or to provide estimates for specific crops or commodities.”

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