Agriculture Commissioner Gary W. Black got his first glance of the devastation left behind by Hurricane Michael during a brief flyover on Friday with Director of the Georgia Forestry Commission Chuck Williams.
“Unfortunately, our worst thoughts were realized, “said Commissioner Black. “We saw months and sometimes years of work just laid over on the ground in a matter of seconds.”
Pecan groves once again suffered extensive damage with downed trees and dropped pecans. This is the third straight year that Georgia pecan growers have found themselves victims of a hurricane. Farmers in the path of Hurricane Matthew back in 2016 lost up to one-third of their operation. Last year’s Hurricane Irma resulted in a 30 percent loss statewide. Hurricane Michael was stronger than the previous two hurricanes when it cut through a larger area of the state, resulting in widespread and catastrophic damage. The losses are further magnified because it takes at least seven years for a new pecan tree to start producing viable nuts.
Low disease and insect pressure combined with a strong market had both vegetable and cotton farmers expecting a profitable year. But Hurricane Michael hit the crops at their most vulnerable, with only 15 percent of the cotton and 30 percent of the vegetables harvested. The cotton and vegetable crops in the hurricane hit areas are now being considered a total loss.
Peanut farmers were 50 percent through their harvest and seemed to fare better than other commodities. But Commissioner Black says there are still concerns surrounding getting the peanuts processed.
“The goal right now is to assist our partners as they work to restore power to buying points and processing facilities, so our farmers can get their product to market,” Commissioner Black said.
Updated numbers from the poultry industry indicate 92 chicken houses were destroyed. Poultry is the state’s top agricultural commodity, contributing $23.3 billion to the economy.
Hurricane Michael Damage Assessment Flyover Footage
This aerial footage comes from Commissioner Black’s damage assessment flyover of Southwest Georgia on October 12, 2018. It shows destruction of much of the poultry, pecans, peanuts, and cotton that are the livelihoods of many farmers in that corner of the state.
Hurricane Michael Damage Assessment Flyover/Ground Images