Ag losses in Alabama expected to top $300M

Published 2:05 am Saturday, November 3, 2018

While the track of Hurricane Michael in October appeared to steer clear of Covington County, an Alabama Cooperative Extension System report released this week estimated that local farmers suffered $2.8 million in damages to the cotton crop.

All told, the Extension Service estimated a more than $300 million in total ag losses in southeast Alabama, which it hopes will be tempered if disaster programs are provided to farmers.

The hurricane made landfall on Oct. 10, causing direct agricultural losses of $204 million in Barbour, Coffee, Covington, Dale, Geneva, Henry, Houston, and Russell counties.

The damage categories included corn, cotton, farm infrastructure, horticulture, irrigation infrastructure, livestock, peanut, pecan, pine straw, poultry, soybean, and timber.

Indirect and induced economic impacts, such as the effect on agricultural suppliers and the reduction in household spending that impacted employment and labor income, added almost $103 million to the total damage to the state’s agriculture industry and communities.

Alabama farmers and producers provided photos and data on the damage. Houston County was closest to the storm’s path and accounted for total losses of more than $146 million, almost half of the total impact in Alabama.

Geneva and Henry counties were the next most affected, with total damages of more than $62 million and $45 million.

Cotton is grown on about 200,000 acres in the region and accounts for about 54 percent of the total damage.

Dr. Gary Lemme, director of Alabama Extension, said the numbers reflect the impact of agriculture damage on people.

Dr. Paul Brown, Extension’s storm response leader, said the analysis shows as many as 2,500 jobs in the Wiregrass economy could be lost or affected.

“There is a direct connection to what happens on the farm and the broader industry and dollars spent in other Wiregrass businesses, such as grocery stores, restaurants and other retails,” Brown said in a media release.