Hurricane Michael had a $300 million effect on agriculture in southeast Alabama when it ripped through the region last month, and could cost the area more than 2,500 jobs.
The Alabama Cooperative Extension System issued a report earlier this week from its Hurricane Michael Task Force, detailing the impact the storm had on crops in the southeast portion of the state. The Extension is a partnership between Auburn University and Alabama A&M University.
“Direct agricultural losses total $204 million alone,” Paul Brown, Extension’s storm response leader, said in a press release. “But when you consider associated impacts on agricultural suppliers and the absence of household spending, the total damage done by Michael to Alabama’s agriculture industry and communities reaches $307 million.”
The assessment presents a county-by-county and crop-by-crop report of damage caused by the hurricane. Michael made landfall on Oct. 10 as a Category 4 storm with wind speeds of 155 mph, the strongest storm to hit the United States in more than a decade.
Hard-hit Houston County is expected to suffer losses of more than $145 million because of the storm, including an estimated more than 1,200 jobs.
“Our analysis shows it could mean as many as 2,500 jobs lost or affected in the Wiregrass economy,” Brown said. “The job impact occurs through decreased agricultural activity in the region and the downstream effects through the supply chain and on main street.
“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 retail outlets,” he continued.
Damages in Geneva County total more than $62 million and a possible job loss over 500, according to the report. Henry County suffered more than $45 million in losses and could lose more than 340 jobs.
Covington County suffered more than $4 million in losses that could result in losing more than 30 jobs, and Russell County saw $2 million in damage from Michael and could lose more than 25 jobs.
Decision Innovation Solutions conducted the economic impact analysis, according to the report.
The crops themselves took a heavy blow when Michael tore through the Wiregrass area.
“Cotton, which is grown on about 200,000 acres in the region, accounts for about 54 percent of the total damage, or almost $163 million,” the press release states. “Combined timber and pine straw losses reach $53 million, while livestock damages total more than $36 million.”
Extension estimates that local, state and federal tax revenues in the Wiregrass region could decline by as much as $22.8 million.
However, the projected economic and job losses do not include possible disaster assistance to the area, which would temper the losses.
Alabama Extension plans to host multiple meetings in the coming months to help farmers and producers recover from the havoc wrought on them by Michael. The first is a livestock recovery meeting on Nov. 14, from 6 to 8 p.m., at the Alabama Extension Houston County office.
Source: Kara Coleman Fields, Opelika-Auburn News
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