Hurricane Michael devastated the Florida Panhandle and Georgia, and Thursday afternoon Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam along with Georgia Commissioner of Agriculture Gary W. Black briefed Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue on the initial agricultural damage assessment.
Hurricane Michael has devastated Southwest and Central Georgia, right through the heart of Georgia’s No. 1 industry. The Georgia Department of Agriculture is coordinating efforts to assist recovery in the areas affected most by Hurricane Michael.
“Michael’s impact has been the most widespread and devastating hurricane in recollection to impact Georgia’s agriculture industry,” Black said. “Crops, animals and infrastructure have all taken a substantial loss,”
Poultry contributes $23.3 billion to Georgia’s economy and has reported the most widespread power outages and loss. To date, the GDA has received reports of 84 chicken houses, estimated to have held more than two million chickens, that were destroyed.
Cotton, which is the state’s top row crop and ranks second in the nation, also suffered massive loss due to the hurricane. Damaging winds drove much of the fiber to the ground for a total loss or tangled the cotton making it much harder to extract clean lint during the ginning process.
“While people are our highest priority at this time, I was asked to provide an early damage estimate to the Vice President and Secretary,” said Florida’s Commissioner. “At least three million acres of timber were impacted by the storm and numerous other commodities suffered severe damage. We’ll continue to work with the industry and partners at the local, state and federal levels to fully assess the agricultural damage.”In addition to timber, other commodities devastated by Hurricane Michael include: poultry, peanuts, dairy, cotton, tomatoes and aquaculture.
“For me, the cotton crop is as bad as it gets,” said Georgia State Rep. Clay Pirkle. “I was picking three-bale cotton yesterday; today it is gone. Can’t tell the difference between what I’ve picked and what I haven’t.”
Assessments for peanuts and pecans are still ongoing. This would mark the second consecutive year that the pecan industry has been affected by a major hurricane. Early reports suggest that many of the processing plants and buying points for peanut and pecans have received significant damage.
“We are thankful for the safety of our farmers and families in South Georgia,” Black said. “Power and products can be restored but human lives cannot.”