UF economists are calling it “the most serious natural disaster to impact agricultural and natural resources industries in the Florida Panhandle in decades.”

Meghan Overdeep
October 30, 2018
Scott Olson/Getty Images

As experts continue to work on quantifying the historic damage wrought by Hurricane Michael, new numbers point to the staggering losses sustained by the hardworking farming communities of Florida’s Panhandle.

According to a recent report by the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, Hurricane Michael will cost Florida farmers an estimated $158 million because of damaged crops.

“The $158 million figure represents lost sales revenues that producers would have received during the 2018-19 growing season if the storm hadn’t impacted them,” Christa Court, an assistant scientist with the university’s food and resource economics department, said in a statement.

University economists projected that nearly 1 million acres of crops (not including timber) were damaged across 25 counties, in what they concluded was “the most serious natural disaster to impact agricultural and natural resources industries in the Florida Panhandle in decades.”

WATCH: North Carolina Swarmed by Monster Mosquitoes Following Hurricane Florence Flooding

Virtually all of the state’s cotton crop was wiped out, with losses totaling $51 million across more than 145,000 impacted acres. The cotton harvest had only just begun on Oct. 10, which meant 90% of the crop remained in the field when the Category 4 hurricane made landfall.

Greenhouse, nursery, and floriculture production suffered a $39 million loss, while peanut farmers took a $22 million hit. And because a significant number of livestock (which included beef cattle, deer, horses, and hogs) went missing after the hurricane, the disruption to animal agriculture is estimated at $23 million. Even the future of Tupelo honey is uncertain.

And those numbers are expected to grow.

“Our analysis did not address clean-up costs, repair, and replacement costs for damaged property, medical and veterinary expenses, or any long-term economic effects of the hurricane,” Court said in a statement. “We needed to focus initially on developing the loss estimates needed for relief efforts, but we intend to continue to develop estimates for the broader economic impacts of the hurricane. County-level estimates will be released in the very near future.”

Our thoughts remain with all those impacted by this horrific storm.