Latest estimates show $950+ million in hurricane damage to Louisiana agriculture, forestry and fisheries

Kurt Guidry, Merrill, Thomas A., Caffey, Rex H.  |  9/27/2008 12:06:21 AM

News Release Distributed 09/26/08

Estimates of damage and losses to Louisiana agriculture, forestry and fisheries resulting from this fall’s hurricanes have climbed to approximately $950 million, according to the latest figures from the LSU AgCenter.

The totals related to hurricanes Gustav and Ike include up to $763 million in lost revenue to Louisiana farmers, ranchers, foresters and fishers and as much as $175 million to $200 million in additional damage to the equipment and facilities that form the industries’ infrastructure. That means the total damage and losses from the two storms are pegged around $951 million and climbing.

Based on information gathered and compiled during September by LSU AgCenter economists, crop specialists, field agents and others, these figures show more than $636 million in damage to a variety of Louisiana agricultural and forestry commodities from hurricanes Gustav and Ike and up to $127 million in potential lost revenue to the state’s fisheries and aquaculture industries.

Additional losses in the industries’ infrastructure – farm equipment, barns, processing facilities and so forth – are still being calculated, but late-September totals show those could approach $188 million or more.

“The losses are a big problem for individual farmers who already were having a difficult time making ends meet year after year,” said Dr. Bill Richardson, chancellor of the LSU AgCenter. “The ripple effect of these losses will affect not only farmers but the communities that depend on the food and fiber sector as a major part of their economy.

“In the long run, the effects will be felt throughout the whole state’s economy and may be seen for years to come,” he said.

Among the hardest hit, in terms of total lost revenue, are soybeans, cotton, aquaculture and fisheries, timber, sugarcane, corn, rice, sweet potatoes and shrimp.

“But the millions in losses to those crops don’t tell the whole story,” said Dr. Kurt Guidry, one of the LSU AgCenter economists who helped to compile the damage estimates. “For example, in addition to losing more than half the state’s cotton and sweet potato crops, estimates show at least half the Louisiana pecan crop also was lost.”

The estimates have been continually climbing since the landfall of Hurricane Gustav – as additional information was gathered about that storm’s damage and as farmers, foresters and fishers saw the effects of lingering rains following the first hurricane.

Then came Hurricane Ike with more damage.

Some of the storms’ most significant damage came in coastal parishes where winds, rain and flooding were issues with crops. But the damage certainly was not limited to the coast – with farmers in North and Central Louisiana seeing plenty of the storms’ fury.

“Crop damage was pretty significant all around, but it was easy to see that the infrastructure damage was more significant with aquaculture and fisheries,” said LSU AgCenter economist Dr. Rex Caffey. “For farmers and ranchers, land is the biggest part of their infrastructure, and barns generally are located farther inland.

“That’s not true for those involved with fishing and seafood processing. They’ve got boats and docks and processing facilities located right on the water, where they’re exposed to a lot more potential for damage.”

Backing up Caffey’s assessment, current estimates for infrastructure damage in agriculture and forestry are about $10 million, but the figures for aquaculture and fisheries range $127 million to $178 million in damage to processing facilities, docks and commercial and recreational vessels.

Concerning lost revenue in various segments, soybeans appear to be the hardest hit, with an estimate of approximately $153 million in lost revenue for the year. Other losses include cotton, $137 million; timber, $92 million; sugarcane, $87 million; corn, $66 million; rice, $34 million; sweet potatoes, $34 million; and shrimp, $31 million.

LSU AgCenter faculty members began assessing damage shortly after the storms and will continue to do so in the weeks and months to come. They say weather will continue to be a factor even if there aren’t additional storms.

“We really won’t know the exact nature and scope of the impact of the 2008 storms until sometime later this year,” Guidry explained. “A lot still depends on whether wet conditions persist and delay harvest of some crops – or whether we see really favorable weather and things get better than expected.

“Either way, it’s probably going to be after this year’s growing season before the final figures are known.”

For more information on agriculture and natural resources, as well as details on storm damage and a host of other topics, visit www.lsuagcenter.com.

To see charts and additional information on the damage, click here.


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Contacts:
Kurt Guidry at (225) 578-4567 or kmguidry@agcenter.lsu.edu 
Rex Caffey at (225) 578-2393 or rcaffey@agcenter.lsu.edu 
Writer:
Tom Merrill at (225) 578-2263 or tmerrill@agcenter.lsu.edu

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