- Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Wilton Simpson has requested a $2 million legislative budget to aid the state’s timber industry in the aftermath of Hurricane Idalia, which caused $64 million in damages across six counties.
- The funding request is in addition to a $4 million request for Florida’s Future Forests Program and the launch of an assistance program for agricultural producers affected by the hurricane.
- Overall estimated agriculture losses range from $78 million to $371 million, with insured losses reaching $230 million.
Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Wilton Simpson submitted a $2 million legislative budget request this week to aid the state’s timber industry following the impact of Hurricane Idalia.
The request comes one week after state assessments revealed that the hurricane yielded $64 million in damages across six counties using data derived from wind speed estimates, modeling, and ground-level observations.
“We continue to work with key legislative members to create additional state-funded grant programs to support Florida’s farmers, ranchers, and growers severely impacted by Hurricane Idalia,” said Simpson.
The sought funding was made in addition to a $4 million request for Florida’s Future Forests Program, a cost-share program, in the 2023-2024 state budget and the launch of an assistance program to provide support to agricultural producers who were impacted by Hurricane Idalia.
“While disaster recovery programs at the federal level can take years to support impacted producers, this targeted and state-funded grant program can quickly help Hurricane Idalia impacted timber landowners offset the initial cost of site preparation, seedlings, and the planting of seedlings.”
Per the damage evaluations, pine forests bore the brunt of the damage, with catastrophic damage impacting 1,674.27 private acres and causing the loss of 26,553 tons of timber, valued at $669,335.87. Severe damage further compounded financial losses, affecting 93,531 private acres and 2,425 public acres, resulting in the loss of 1 million tons of timber valued at $25.3 million. Moderate damage, while comparatively less severe, still impacted 75,525 private acres and 7,727.01 public acres, leading to the loss of 660,191.63 tons of timber valued at $16.6 million.
Mixed forests containing both pine and hardwood trees, as well as hardwood forests, saw total losses reach 526,485 tons of timber valued at $8.1 million and 756,243 tons valued at $11.7 million, respectively. Cypress forests were found to lose 135,985 tons of timber, valued at $2.2 million
Despite being a relatively dry storm with low precipitation, damage evaluation found that Idalia produced significant storm surge and widespread flooding along the Gulf Coast, resulting in significant damage to mature live oak trees, which are typically considered to be wind-resistant.
A preliminary report conducted by the University of Florida places total estimated agriculture losses to fall between $78 million and $371 million, encompassing damaged crops, livestock, and infrastructure, including irrigation systems and fences. Livestock losses are estimated to be between $30.1 million and $123.4 million, while field and row crop losses range from $30.7 million to $93.6 million. Greenhouse and nursery products also suffered losses ranging from $4.7 million to $68.8 million.
Total estimated insured losses following Idalia’s landfall have swelled to $230 million, as of Wednesday, with varying percentages of claims closed across different lines of business.