‘When agriculture hurts, everybody hurts:’ Florence caused $1.1B in NC agriculture losses

September 27, 2018

Initial estimates for crop damage and livestock losses in North Carolina from Hurricane Florence are expected to be over $1.1 billion, state officials said Wednesday.

“We knew the losses would be significant because it was harvest time for so many of our major crops and the storm hit our top six agricultural counties especially hard,” Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler said in a statement. “These early estimates show just what a devastating and staggering blow this hurricane leveled at our agriculture industry.”

The losses far exceed the $400 million caused by Hurricane Matthew in 2016, officials said.

The estimates were based on the percentage of crops still in the field in the 35 hardest-hit counties. The calculations also looked at a five-year average for crop production and the prices of commodities. Assessment information from state Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services regional agronomists, North Carolina State University agents and specialists, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency, the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service and commodity associations were used to develop estimates.

Following are estimates by crops:

Kent Revels had 300 acres of tobacco in his Fuquay-Varina fields, but more than half of it was damaged by Florence. He estimates that he probably lost nearly $500,000 worth of the crop in the storm.

“It was at the stage it was mature. It was ready to harvest, it was what we call ripe, so the wind and the rain just made the severity of the loss, the damage, made it worse,” Revels said.

Recovery from the loss, Revels said, is unforeseeable.

“You don’t overcome something like that. It’ll take years. It’ll take years to overcome a loss of that magnitude,” he said.

Sandy Stewart with the state Department of Agriculture said that, regardless of the storm’s impact, nobody is immune to the effects of that kind of economic hit.

“When agriculture hurts, everybody hurts because it takes the multiplier out,” Stewart said.

As for Revels, the road ahead will be long.

“Basically everybody that had any tobacco in the field down this way and toward teh coast and down east, pretty much it’s over with for the tobacco crop,” he said.

Livestock losses are 4.1 million poultry and an estimate of 5,500 hogs.

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