Agriculture damage from Hurricane Michael impacts Wiregrass economy

Agriculture damage from Hurricane Michael impacts Wiregrass economy

DOTHAN, AL (WSFA) - The impact of agriculture damage from Hurricane Michael is rippling though southeast Alabama’s regional economy. Experts fear if no governmental disaster support is provided, we could see millions of dollars lost and jobs disappear.

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System released new numbers Thursday outlining the impact by county and commodity. They held a meeting at Landmark Park with local farmers and state leaders.

“One of the things that we’ve done over the last two weeks since the hurricane is work with the agriculture industry farmers as well as those directly connected to look at how we could do a good job assessing the losses,” said Dr. Paul Brown, Extension’s Storm Response Leader. “Then to go further what is the economic impact once that direct loss is determined.”

Data showed that direct agriculture losses total $204 million.

Experts also looked at indirect loses - like the impact on farm suppliers who would lose business because farmers couldn’t afford to purchase farming equipment or supplies. That loss totaled $61 million.

They also looked at induced loses, like how much local retailers would lose because farming households couldn’t afford to do extra shopping.

Those numbers combined show a potential loss of $307 million in the Wiregrass region.

“The data loses that we have - the $307 million total - as well as the potential loss of 2,500 jobs would be if we do not get any assistance to help overcome this economic shock," Brown said.

Although Florida and Georgia have been declared national disaster areas, Alabama has not been declared a natural disaster area. Agriculture experts are hoping this new data will be used to advocate for the disaster designation and ultimately help the federal dollars roll in to help farmers.

“Crop insurance doesn’t cover loses of this nature and magnitude,” Brown said.

Curry Parker has been farming for 49 years. He’s calculated close to a half million dollar loss to his crops. Parker says farmers need the disaster designation to happen, but don’t need offers of low-interest loans to repay after losing so much.

“Farming is homeland security. You let the grocery stores get empty in New York or Boston or go two or three days, and it’ll be a disaster. It’s very important that we stay in business,” said Parker. “Don’t give us this idle talk. If you’re going to get on board - get with us and help us through this disaster.”

The information presented at this meeting was distributed to federal leaders who plan to work with Georgia and Florida to discuss financial aid options. No word on timeline of the disaster declaration.

Alabama Extension will host recovery meetings for farmers and producers. The first will be a livestock recovery meeting Nov. 14 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Alabama Extension Houston County office.

To see the complete report visit the Alabama Cooperative Extension System website.

Copyright 2018 WSFA 12 News. All rights reserved.