Hurricane Ian ag losses tallied at $1.03B

Downed Florida fruit trees in Hurricane Ian's aftermath.
Downed Florida fruit trees in Hurricane Ian's aftermath. (Courtesy UF/IFAS)
Courtesy UF/IFAS

Following months of analyzing data, UF economists announced on Thursday the estimated agricultural losses due to Hurricane Ian at $1.03 billion.

This number estimates the total value of seasonal crops, livestock, nursery and aquaculture products that will not be harvested or marketed as a result the category 4 storm.

On Sept. 28, 2022, Hurricane Ian made landfall on an island 20 miles west of Fort Myers. The storm brought damaging winds and flooded millions of acres of agricultural lands as it swept across Central Florida.

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Christa Court UF/IFAS
Courtesy of UF/IFAS Christa Court

On Thursday, the UF/IFAS Economic Impact Analysis Program (EIAP) published its report, “Estimated Agricultural Losses Resulting from Hurricane Ian.” A preliminary assessment released on Oct. 18, 2022, estimated the initial losses would be between $787 million and $1.56 billion.

A portion of the $1.03 billion loss estimate might be offset by insurance or other risk management tools available to producers, said Christa Court, director of the EIAP and an assistant professor in the UF/IFAS food and resources economics department.

“For example, if a grower was expecting to harvest $10 million in crops this year and the storm destroyed $6 million worth, we report a $6 million loss. That farmer might recoup some of that through insurance, but we don’t have a good way of accounting for that in our estimates,” Court explained.

Thursday’s report breaks down the $1.03 billion in final estimated losses by commodity group:

  • Citrus: $247.1 million
  • Vegetables and melons: $204.6 million
  • Greenhouse and nursery: $195.4 million
  • Non-citrus fruit: $137.7 million
  • Field and row crops: $130.2 million
  • Livestock and animal products: $119.8 million

The five counties with the greatest agricultural losses include:

  • Manatee: $126.4 million
  • Hillsborough: $104.4 million
  • Palm Beach: $88.8 million
  • Hardee: $72.5 million
  • Hendry: $72.0 million

Court said the report does not include costs associated with asset damages or production losses that might occur in future seasons.

“For example, we are not able to measure things such as the cost of repairing or replacing damaged structures or equipment, replanting perennial crops or replacing livestock,” Court said.

Hurricane Ian’s agricultural impacts were further compounded by Hurricane Nicole in November 2022 and hard freezes that occurred in January 2022 and December 2022, Court added.

“The same areas affected by Ian were hit, in some cases, by multiple weather events that each would have affected the agricultural yield on their own in an ordinary year,” Court said. “Our survey only covered damages and losses from Hurricane Ian, so this report is not a view of the total impact to agricultural production of all 2022 events that have impacted the sector.”

UF/IFAS started collecting baseline data measuring agricultural losses and damages from tropical cyclone events in 2017.

“With our current methods, we can better analyze the overall impacts of wind, rainfall and flooding on agricultural lands,” said Xiaohui Qiao, research assistant professor in the UF/IFAS food and resource economics department and data analyst for EIAP.

“Traditionally, data on strong winds from hurricanes were the most accessible in the immediate aftermath of a storm, meaning that analyses focused on areas impacted by strong winds, but we know that factors like heavy rainfall and flooding can also contribute to significant crop and livestock production damage and losses. The same storm can also cause different experiences from one farm to the next,” Qiao said.

UF/IFAS Economic Impact Analysis Program arrives at the agricultural loss estimates by using data gathered from multiple sources. The process includes overlaying the storm’s path, windspeeds, rainfall and flooding with the acreage, value and seasonality of the agricultural commodities grown or raised in the counties affected by the storm. This overlay is combined with information about how the event affected those commodities.

Finally, the economists refine their estimates using survey responses submitted by agricultural producers and Florida Cooperative Extension faculty.

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