Florida’s agriculture industry suffered $2.5 billion in damages from Hurricane Irma, a Category 4 storm which ripped through the Sunshine State last month.
Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam said Wednesday the storm caused massive damage to some of the state’s most precious agricultural commodities like citrus and other crops important to the state.
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services estimates losses for each segment of agriculture in Florida, accounting for crop losses as well as ancillary losses, which include debris cleanup, damaged infrastructure and animals’ long-term welfare affected by the monster storm.
Hurricane Irma made landfall last month as a Category 4 storm, engulfing most of the state with high winds and torrential rain, damaging buildings and wreaking havoc on the state’s natural resources.
The number, though large, is just a starting point -- Putnam said he expects the damage dollar amount to only increase as state officials take a closer look at just how much damage the storm caused after all.
“Florida agriculture took it on the chin as Hurricane Irma pummeled the state, and the $2.5 billion in agricultural damages is only an initial assessment,” Putnam said. “We’re likely to see even greater economic losses as we account for loss of future production and the cost to rebuild infrastructure.”
Florida’s citrus industry took the biggest hit from Hurricane Irma, with preliminary estimates finding the storm devastated the state’s largest agricultural industry with nearly $761 million worth of damage.
Recent estimates found nearly a 70 percent loss of the state’s orange trees, many of which were uprooted or flooded from the storm.
The citrus industry is important to Florida, which is the nation's leader in orange juice production. Worldwide, Florida ranks second to Brazil in orange production, with the citrus industry pumping over $8 billion to the state each year.
Greenhouses, nurseries and floraculture were also heavily damaged from the storm, with preliminary estimates finding nearly $625 million in damage from the storm, which hovered over the state for days before heading north and dissipating.
Florida’s sugar had the third-highest amount of damage from Irma. The department estimated the sugar business suffered $383 million in losses.
Though the initial costs of the storm are staggering, Putnam said the state wouldn’t back down from the challenge of rebuilding Florida’s agriculture industry piece by piece.
“We’re going to do everything within our power to support Florida agriculture as it recovers from Hurricane Irma’s devastation,” Putnam said.