Katrina Hurts Timber Sugarcane; Shrimping Biggest Seafood Loss; Citrus Down the Drain

Kurt Guidry, Schultz, Bruce  |  9/13/2005 6:25:52 PM

Agricultural damage in Louisiana has been estimated in excess of $1 billion, including $610 million in lost timber, $145 million in sugarcane and $151 million for seafood.

Dr. Kurt Guidry, LSU AgCenter economist, reached those figures by calculating production losses, but he said it’s still too early to determine the overall impact.

“Given the short time since Hurricane Katrina hit and the limitations in conducting detailed assessments at this time, the estimates do not include impacts of potential infrastructure damages,” Guidry said, adding that could increase the total by $200 million to $500 million.

The damage isn’t confined to the southeast Louisiana area. Cotton and rice in North Louisiana were damaged by wind, with losses estimated at $10.4 million and $484,000, respectively.

Guidry said the delay of grain shipments on the Mississippi River because of problems at the Port of New Orleans could affect farmers outside Louisiana.

“Another source of economic impact is the potential for lowered prices due to either quality issues, alterations in supply and demand conditions, or the disruption in marketing and distribution channels,” he said.

Some flooded areas may not return to pre-Katrina production for several years, Guidry said, and that would add to the damage total.

The increased cost of fuel because of damage to the Gulf Coast petroleum industry will affect farmers too, he said.

“Harvest is just beginning with well over 1 million acres of row crops yet to be harvested statewide,” he said. “Sharp increases in fuel costs could lead to several million dollars in increased costs faced by producers and loggers.”

More than three quarters of the timber in St. Tammany, Washington and Tangipahoa parishes was damaged, Guidry said, with only 30 percent to 40 percent that may be salvaged.

Several saw mills and paper plants were out of operation because the work force was absent tending to family matters. Electricity wasn’t restored to all facilities for several days.

And rising natural gas prices have raised concerns about profitability of timber-related facilities, he said.

Small Christmas tree farms suffered losses estimated at $2 million to $3 million, he said.

The loss estimate for sugarcane is based on post-storm estimates of production versus a three-year average of production.

“Estimates for post-storm production were based on reported acres affected, assumed loss harvest efficiency, percentage of the crop with broken stalks, and increases in the amount of trash,” Guidry said. “The estimate also includes projections for increases in planting costs and harvest costs.”

But Guidry said the estimate does not include the expectation that cane farmers could be faced with 10 percent to 15 percent lower production in 2006 due to damage caused by Hurricane Katrina.

High fuel costs will force producers to seriously consider the marginal benefit of harvesting cane that has fallen over (lodged), he said.

“It is conceivable that some acreage will not provide enough potential revenue to justify harvesting,” he said. “In addition, rising energy prices will likely have negative impacts on the financial situation on most of the sugarcane mills.”

Guidry said cotton farmers potentially face a fuel fee to mill their crop.

“With high fuel prices, revenue from sale of cotton seed will likely not cover milling costs,” he said.

The dairy industry suffered total losses exceeding $1 million because farms without power had no choice but to dump their product.

“This estimate will likely continue to grow until infrastructure and distribution channels return to some form of normalcy,” Guidry said. “In addition, it is likely that cows will have reduced milk production due to increased stress and health issues and less-than-optimum milking conditions.”

He said it’s estimated that 11,000 head of cattle are missing in Plaquemines and St. Bernard parishes, with the loss at $11 million for market value of the missing animals and replacement costs.

“This value only represents the losses to expected revenue from cattle sales in 2005 and does not represent the market value and loss future earnings of dead cattle,” he said. “There is also likely damage to infrastructure and potential for loss grazing and hay in areas in which flooding of salt water occurred.”

Citrus losses totaling $10.8 million do not include future revenue losses, he said.

“At this time, we estimate that 80 percent of the citrus acres would not be suitable for re-planting because of contamination,” he said. “As a result, producers would be foregoing estimated marketings valued at $5,000 per acre. Over a 30-year period, this would result in a loss in future sales of $72 million.”

Losses for horticulture growers are estimated at $19 million. In addition, there is potential for lost future revenue because of damage from salt water contamination of the soil, Guidry said.

Shrimping is the biggest loss of the seafood industry, with an estimated $72 million in lost production, followed by oysters with $25 million, menhaden with $17 million, crabs at $15 million, finfish as $12.5 million, turtles at $5.4 million and alligators, $3.8 million.

The estimate also provides for $3.8 million in lost hunting lease revenue and $20.4 million in charter fishing.

Those estimates are more than just abstract numbers for Carolyn Falgout of Amite. She had almost 1,500 acres of oyster beds in Plaquemines Parish near Port Sulphur.

“That’s all a loss,” she said.

The workers who harvest the oysters have probably lost their boats, she said. “So these people have no incomes and it was just getting around to the season.”

Oysters require the correct balance of fresh and salt water, Falgout said, and the storm washed sea water laden with silt into the beds.

Oysters require as long as 3 years to reach maturity, she said.

Falgout also has 200 head of cows at her ranch near Amite, but she’s afraid that some might have gotten loose after large oaks fell on fences. A nearby friend’s champion show cow was killed by a falling tree during the storm, she said.

She has several friends who had cattle in Plaquemines Parish, including one man with 1,000 head.

“They’re not seeing any of those so far,” she said.

Another friend with 300 head has found 30 “but they won’t be able to tell whose they are until they can get them out of the water.”

Falgout said airboats are the main means of transportation in Plaquemines Parish. Feed and hay are being placed on sheets of tin roofing and perched on tree limbs to feed the cattle that are struggling in the salty floodwater, she said.

She said her friend and fellow LSU AgCenter Leadership classmate Patty Vogt of Port Sulphur is working frantically to save cattle and equipment. She said Vogt lost her 50-acre citrus crop that was only weeks away from harvest.

“Now it’s all gone, down the drain.”

Rate This Article:

Have a question or comment about the information on this page?

Innovate . Educate . Improve Lives

The LSU AgCenter and the LSU College of Agriculture

Top