AL farmers experience more than $200 million in damages after Hurricane Michael

AL farmers experience more than $200 million in damages after Hurricane Michael

AUBURN, AL (WSFA) -Thousands of farmers are experiencing devastating losses after Hurricane Michael’s winds hit Alabama in October.

“I think the psychological affect of farmers in the region is one of shock,” said Dr. Paul Brown, the associate director for the Alabama Cooperative Extension System (CES) at Auburn University.

He is talking about the shock after the hurricane destroyed crops and infrastructure in the wiregrass region.

The extension system released a report detailing the damages caused by the hurricane. The report said Alabama farmers took financial blows adding up to more than $204 million.

“These are the kinds of things that take time to heal financially, and also take time for the communities to heal,” Brown said.

Covington, Geneva, Coffee, Dale, Henry, Houston, Barbour and Russel counties were impacted by the storm.

The hurricane destroyed infrastructure like fences, and hurt the peanut and timber industries. The biggest blow was to cotton farmers with damages adding up to more than $107 million. Sixty percent of Alabama cotton is produced in the wiregrass region.

Other industries including horticulture, pecan, pine straw, poultry, and soybean had financial losses in the millions.

Brown said without federal financial assistance, it could take farmers five to ten years to recover from the hurricane.

“They would have to take out long-term loans to see how they could spread these financial losses over a number of years," he said.

The report said farmers are not the only ones impacted by this. If there are not interventions, in the next year, suppliers could lose millions.

The report estimates the longer-term ripple affect to lead to another $100 million in financial losses. Brown hopes the report can be used to inform people about the impacts the storm had on farmers.

“So it’s really important to be able to look at how this information can be used to look at helping to mitigate the effects through USDA system’s programs potentially,” he said.

Currently the wiregrass region is not designated as a USDA disaster area, so it does not receive federal funding. Only Florida and Georgia have received disaster-relief resources from the federal government.

The Alabama Farmers Federation said they will lobby congress to send money for Alabama farmers to recover.

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