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Hurricane Impacts on Southern Agriculture

Hurricane Impacts on Southern Agriculture

Posted on Aug 24, 2018

How Hurricanes Have Impacted Agriculture and Livestock

Hurricane season begins June 1 and peaks in mid-August to late September. Since we are right in the middle, it's hard not to think about last years record-breaking season.

From turning highways into rivers and homes into flatland, the United States experienced an unsettling record of hurricanes last year, placing 2017 among the top 10 most active seasons on record. Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria were among the largest hurricanes to sweep away homes and sustainable living in the southeast and Texas.

While these three hurricanes cost the United States a quarter trillion dollars in damages, agriculture, bodies of water, livestock and irrigation systems suffered greatly.


The powerful rain and winds destroyed crops, displaced livestock and disrupted trade. In Texas, nearly one-fourth of the country’s wheat and a major portion of corn and soybeans left many exports starving. Hurricane Harvey shut down terminal elevators at Texas gulf ports, restricting one-quarter of wheat exports.

As the cotton season was about to begin in Texas, nearly 200,000 bales of cotton lint on the stalk was lost and another 200,000 harvested bales lost its quality, said Dr. John Robinson, an AgriLife Extension cotton marketing economist in College Station. In addition, there were widespread losses of cottonseed.

Hurricane losses (in Texas) by agricultural commodity include:

  • Livestock: $93 million
  • Cotton: $100 million
  • Rice and soybeans: $8 million

Florida, the top grower of citrus and sugar cane, is also a key source of tomatoes, bell peppers, green beans, mushrooms and cucumbers. Following Hurricane Irma, electrical services were shut down leaving a portion of those vegetable fields flooded. A lack of electricity in those hurricane-affected areas caused farms to dispose of crops in all stages of production leading to a delay in distribution and food waste. Florida saw nearly $761 million in citrus losses.


Although Hurricane Harvey, Irma and Maria ended a major drought in the United States, the 100 mph winds and heavy rainfall also impacted livestock. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Texas farmers and ranchers lost more than 1 million cattle in major disaster areas. Access to fresh, clean water is essential to keep animals alive after a disaster. Because cattle stores some water, they can survive for a few days without clean water.

In Florida, cattle ranchers faced $238 million in damages after Hurricane Irma. An estimated 6,000 beef cattle ranches suffered significant damages to structures, fences and equipment in addition to calf loss and property damage.


Within 24 hours of Hurricane Harvey’s destruction of the Houston area, the Deere team delivered a disaster response action plan, deploying John Deere tractors and equipment to help in recovery efforts. Working with Deere employees in the Houston area and the company’s nonprofit network, the team determined what the best course of action was to help people who were most impacted.

By October, Deere & Company announced it would donate $1 million to Habitat Hammers Back, a long-term recovery initiative by Habitat for Humanity International to continue repairing and rebuilding communities decimated by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.


While the severity of the 2017 Hurricane season was highly unexpected, farmers can prepare for future hurricanes with these tips from Doug Mayo, Director of the UF/IFAS Extension Center in Jackson County Florida:

  1. Create a printed list of extended family, veterinarian, employees and their families, your local farm services agency office, utility company and local county Extension office.
  2. Purchase batteries for flashlights and lanterns. Have enough flashlights ready for each employee.
  3. Stock up on feed for animals receiving supplemental feeds. Have enough hay, feed, and health-care supplies on hand for one to two weeks. Feed stores may not be open for business for a week or more after a storm.
  4. Check to ensure generators are ready and in working order.
  5. Make sure chainsaws are in good working order and stock up on mixed fuel.
  6. Locate chains and come-a-long for limb and tree movement off fences and buildings.
  7. Stock up on fence-repair materials: wire, posts, and staples for repairing fences damaged by limbs and trees.


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