GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Hurricane Idalia made landfall the morning of Aug. 30 near Keaton Beach, Florida, but the Category 3 storm’s northeastern route brought rain and high winds to coastal regions along the western peninsula and inland agricultural counties.
The UF/IFAS Economic Impact Analysis Program (EIAP) uses surveys after natural disasters, seeking information on observed and estimated agricultural production losses in affected Florida counties. For Idalia, the researchers have narrowed their focus to the Big Bend region and surrounding inland areas of the state, with more than 3 million acres of agricultural lands – much of it used for grazing – in the areas of potential impact.
A survey for Idalia is now available at go.ufl.edu/IdaliaAgImpacts and will remain open for an indeterminate time to allow time for producers to first secure their operations, assess damages, and then report. Responses are encouraged as soon as possible because EIAP typically pulls data for a preliminary assessment after two weeks. The survey is also available for the first time in Spanish.
“We are asking for producers to complete the survey themselves, or work with their UF/IFAS Extension county agent, to report everything from fruit drop to flooded or wind-damaged crops to lost livestock,” said Christa Court, director of the EIAP and an assistant professor in the UF/IFAS food and resource economics department. “Due to data limitations, our assessment does not typically provide a statewide estimate of infrastructure damage or damages to stored agricultural inputs, but we do encourage growers to submit that type of information as well so that we can continue to build baseline data for these additional aspects of production in support of more detailed assessments in the future.”
Anecdotally, Court said, producers farther south in the peninsula seem to have avoided major impacts. Strawberry growers, for one, are reporting uninterrupted planting. But, she added, any operation that did experience impacts, regardless of location, should report those.
Court and her colleagues began collecting detailed baseline data to measure agricultural losses and damages resulting from tropical cyclone events in 2017. Since then, the program has continued to improve its baseline and impact databases and its methods for completing these types of analyses.
“When we’re looking at past hurricane assessments, we have noted that the timing, location and characteristics of each storm vary and can bring very different types of effects to different crops throughout the state. Individual preparations to mitigate potential losses can also influence impacts,” said Xiaohui Qiao, research assistant professor in the UF/IFAS food and resource economics department and data analyst for EIAP. “Think of a storm when a neighbor’s tree fell but your land was unscathed, or one with floodwaters that stopped just short of your doorstep. What affects one producer might not affect the next, but it’s our goal to estimate production losses as best we can, as quickly as we can, and to provide information for expedited decisions that might affect recovery.”
EIAP’s assessment is one of several resources available to federal and state agencies as decisions related to disaster declarations, response and recovery are made.
Other agencies also request information on impacts via surveys, and although EIAP may not be affiliated with those efforts, the work is complementary and supports the decision-making process. The USDA Farm Service Agency has a hotline for producers requesting assistance: 877-508-8364, Monday-Friday 8 a.m.-8 p.m., or they can send an email noting impacts to SM.FPAC.FSA.FLFSA.Disaster@USDA.gov, specifying the county in the subject line.
Following a preliminary estimate in the weeks after a storm, the EIAP releases a final report later in the season that includes county-level estimates of production losses. Timelines may vary as much as the storms themselves.
“What’s most crucial is getting a strong survey response rate,” Court said. “We recognize the stresses these producers are already managing during the recovery period, and the survey has been simplified as much as possible to streamline the process. We thank everyone in advance for their cooperation.”
For frequently asked questions about EIAP’s survey efforts, visit go.ufl.edu/idalia-assessment-faqs.
Note: The featured image was taken on Aug. 28, 2023, and shows a harvested corn field at UF/IFAS North Florida Research and Education Center, Suwannee Valley. The field was harvested in preparation for Hurricane Idalia’s arrival. Source: facebook.com/NFRECSV/posts/pfbid05MV9uP2RotQERSz3NVSBrxgfazpSFWmvpxrZdvmZ5ZQR47xKZEvwrhifrbtbF5Ygl.