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Florida's agriculture losses from Hurricane Idalia pile up to over $400 million

An aerial view of a car driving alongside storm debris on a highway.
Caleb Ross
A car is seen driving alongside storm debris on south-east Highway 357 in Old Town, Fla., on Thursday, Aug 31, 2023, following Hurricane Idalia’s landfall in Keaton Beach, Fla., Wednesday morning.

In the second preliminary report on agricultural damage from Hurricane Idalia, state officials on Wednesday estimated the Aug. 30 storm caused up to $447 million in losses for the industry.

In the second preliminary report on agricultural damage from Hurricane Idalia, state officials on Wednesday estimated the Aug. 30 storm caused up to $447 million in losses for the industry.

The state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services said the storm, which made landfall in Taylor County at Category 3 strength before crossing other areas of rural North Florida, had its biggest impact on such things as cattle and poultry operations, followed by field crops.

The department’s report said industry leaders described “overwhelming impacts this storm had on not only their current-year crop losses, but the further devastation of damaged infrastructure.” It cited examples such as destroyed fences and shade structures.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency declared 16 Florida counties as disaster areas because of the storm.

State Agriculture Commissioner Wilton Simpson said the industry will be supported “to replant, to rebuild and to recover.”

“It's clear that our state's farmers, ranchers, and growers --- who we rely on daily for our food, fiber and more --- have a long road to recovery,” Simpson said in a prepared statement.

Florida leaders including Simpson have been pushing the federal government to approve Idalia funding, including aid to farmers and ranchers, and assistance for past storms. They would like the aid before a possible federal government shutdown.

Last week, the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, known as UF/IFAS, estimated damages from Idalia between $78.8 million and $370.9 million.

The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services report draws from the university’s findings and other state and federal sources.

A category that includes beef cattle, dairy cattle, poultry and aquaculture totaled up to $157.6 million in estimated losses, including infrastructure and equipment, according to the department’s report.

Drawing from UF/IFAS’ findings, the department estimated up to $93.6 million in losses for field crops such as corn, peanuts and cotton. Also, vegetables and melons sustained up to $60.6 million in additional losses. Another $2.6 million was felt by growers of non-citrus fruits and tree nuts.

The nursery and greenhouse industry had up to $68.8 million in losses, and the forestry industry reported an estimated $64.7 million in losses.

The report did not show damages for the citrus industry, which is in the early stages of its 2023-2024 growing season.

The citrus industry took the biggest hit last year when Hurricane Ian hit Southwest Florida and continued across the state, causing an estimated $1.03 billion in agricultural losses.

The UF/IFAS report noted that citrus growers, while not reporting widespread losses from Idalia, faced tropical-storm conditions that could hinder production by $21.9 million.

The 16 counties declared as disaster areas were Citrus, Columbia, Dixie, Gilchrist, Hamilton, Hernando, Jefferson, Lafayette, Levy, Madison, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas, Sarasota, Suwannee and Taylor.