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Agricultural and coastal assessment – Updates from the field

This page features agricultural and coastal assessment updates from UF/IFAS experts throughout the state.

Bridget Stice, UF/IFAS Extension Polk County agent – Sept. 13

“I visited several ranches today. Thankfully, the destruction from Irma was minimal, considering. There is a great deal of flooding in pastures making grazing unavailable and requiring cows to be moved to higher ground. Also due to the flooding, many cattlemen have been unable to reach their cattle to assess loss/injury. Many of the ranchers lost or had damage to their barns and outbuildings. One dairy lost five barns. Many horses had to be euthanized or were dead (I am counting approximately 30).”

Lara Milligan, UF/IFAS Extension Pinellas County agent – Sept. 12

“A team of us in Pinellas County will be helping the park rangers cleanup county parks tomorrow and probably the rest of the week to help get them ready to hopefully be open on Saturday.”

Anita Neal, UF/IFAS Extension South District director – Sept. 12

Okeechobee County

“There is a lot of damage and it is hard to make accurate estimates of damage. Extrapolating numbers to the surrounding areas (about 50 dairies in south Florida), there could be in excess of $16,000,000 of damages; additional losses of animals and production could be $400,000 per day depending on weather and continued loss of power. Additional fuel expense could be $40,000 per day, again depending on the length of time without power. Some dairies will lose generators because of overuse. Forage crops have been affected by wind and water, but it is difficult to know which ones will recover.”

UF/IFAS Extension Seminole Tribe of Florida

“100 percent of 600 acres of sugar cane in Brighton is leveled and underwater just north of Lake Okeechobee. Little damage to cattle, but calving season has begun. ±14,000 Brighton and ±10,000 Big Cypress improved pasture acres are underwater. Calves born onto flooded ground and forage under water will create significant financial loss for ranchers. Significant damage to pasture culverts and solar wells on both reservations.Crews out repairing miles of perimeter fences. Interior fences will be inspected once water recedes. In the 600 Citrus acres at Brighton there is 50 to 60 percent fruit drop. The Brighton hog farm facility and 4-H show pavilion have been destroyed.”

UF/IFAS Extension Glades County

UF/IFAS Extension Highlands County

Gene McAvoy, UF/IFAS Extension Hendry County director – Sept. 12

“Around Immokalee and LaBelle, 50 to 60 percent of the fruit has been blown off the trees and is floating in flood waters. Groves are extensively flooded and growers are having difficulty removing the water because the retention areas are also flooded. In some cases, dikes are breaking and releasing the water back into the grove. Even where the dikes are holding, there’s no place to put the water, so they’re having a slow go of removing water. This is going to result in long-term damage to trees. We’re also seeing widespread damage to buildings, power outages and internal farm roads washed away, so road repairs will be necessary. Some power units have been damaged, and electrical power is out in most places with extensive damage to power lines.”

Whitney Elmore, UF/IFAS Extension Pasco County director – Sept. 12

“I have been in touch with most of our large producers in Pasco. Most are reporting little to no damage. I am currently touring the county to speak with others where possible. One blueberry producer, Frogmore Fresh in Dade City, was hit very hard. They have over 100,000 plants down. I was searching for 30 to 40 people to help get plants reset as their help left prior to the storm. Based on a suggestion from Nick Place, I am trying to coordinate a group of 4Hers and some from FFA to go out Thursday and Friday to assist.”

Steve Futch, UF/IFAS Extension regional citrus agent – Sept. 12

“I traveled down from Winter Haven to Arcadia (65 miles) this morning and saw lots of flooding issues near wet, low areas. Many rivers are way above their banks.  The Peace River is at record highs.   Many pastures in low area are with standing water.  A lot of power lines are damaged in some areas.  However, some areas have power between Winter Haven and Arcadia.  Hwy 17, a major north/south road, is closed due to flooding.  The travel time is usually 1.5 hours but had to go around the flooded areas which added 45 minutes to the travel.  Hwy 17 was not closed back with Hurricane Charlie went through the area.  We received about 9 inches at my house on Sunday/Monday.  Flooding will continue for some time.

Regarding the citrus crop, as you approach the path of the storm, the damage increased with dropped fruit and in some places you can easily see overturned trees.

The injury to the crop can be as high as 50 percent or more loss where close to the storm or more on the east side of the storm than the west side path.  While I stated 50 percent or more, that will vary with many factors and could easily be higher where a tornado impacted the area.  It would be impossible to state the total damage from the storm to the entire citrus industry as some areas received more or less damage.

Many of the areas that are in the process of planting fall crops (tomato, strawberry, etc.) will be impacted due to high water and very wet soils that will impact the bedding process.

Laurie Hurner, UF/IFAS Extension Highlands County – Sept. 11

“Highlands County, Sebring at least, looks pretty good. Just got back from a ride. Hwy 27 is open through Sebring a lot of power lines and poles down. According to Highlands County EOC, 90 percentof Highlands County is without power I fear we are all without power for quite a while.

I am hearing that there are a lot (one guy said tons) of round oranges on the ground. Killing me, had the best looking crop coming on that we have had in a while. For any of you that are growers I hear there are crop adjusters getting into the field starting tomorrow. Contact your adjuster soon!!

Above all we are safe and together so that is all that matters. Keep in touch and stay safe.”

Tim Wilson, UF/IFAS Extension St. Johns County – Sept. 11

“All but one from the UF/IFAS Extension St. Johns county office have reported. Lots of broken limbs and downed trees. One person had a tree fall on their boat shed and another lost some of their roof, but everyone that reported was fine. I’m not sure about the flooding in St. Augustine. I’ve heard it was worse that Matthew which was bad. Our office is currently being used as a shelter for a nursing home. The County is closed tomorrow, not sure when we’ll get back to our offices.”

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