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Florida agriculture severely at risk as Hurricane Dorian nears


Hurricane Dorian, which is expected to slam into Florida’s eastern coast as a Category 4 storm in the next couple of days, could devastate not only Central Florida tourist destinations, but also the region’s agricultural areas, which include significant acreage devoted to citrus, vegetable, ornamental plant, and cattle production. 

Economists and Extension faculty with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences are making preparations to estimate agricultural losses after Dorian passes, which could very well be as late as Thursday or Friday next week, due to the nature of this storm.

dorian florida
Image courtesy of the National Hurricane Center

The 21-county region in the hurricane’s path has nearly 750,000 acres in agricultural production, a figure that does not include grazing land, said economist Christa Court, director of the UF/IFAS Economic Impact Analysis Program. More than 500,000 head of beef and dairy cattle are found here. In all, crop and livestock production, forestry, and fishing in the region generated more than $4.22 billion in revenues and directly supported more than 63,000 jobs in 2017, the most recent year for which data are available.

“In terms of dollar value,” Court said, “the region’s biggest industries, in descending order, are fruit farming, including citrus and non-citrus fruits; support activities for agriculture and forestry; production of nursery, greenhouse and floriculture crops; vegetable and melon farming; beef cattle ranching; and dairy cattle and milk production.”

Dorian is not yet at full strength, but the projected Category 4 storm means that it will deal 130 mph to 156 mph winds, as well as torrential rainfall, to Florida. Officials are warning Florida residents that the risk of “life-threatening storm surge” and “devastating hurricane-force winds” along its east coast is increasing.

“There is an increasing likelihood of a prolonged period of hazardous weather conditions that could last for a couple of days in parts of Florida early next week,” the National Hurricane Center said Friday.

Florida Farm Bureau released a statement, saying: “As Hurricane Dorian is approaching, please protect and secure your home and personal property, including your valuables. Move any loose items (outside or inside) out of harm’s way. Cover window openings with hurricane shutters or plywood. If flooding is expected in your area, move contents and valuables off of the floor and raise or store them above the expected flood line. Secure your policy information so that it is readily available for you when you report your claim. Above all else, ensure the safety of yourself and your family. Follow any evacuation orders promptly.”

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