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UF/IFAS Helps Agricultural Producers Begin Long Road To Recovery After Hurricane Charley

Chuck Woods (352) 392-1773 x 281

Jim Selph, 863-993-4846
Charles Vavrina, 239-658-3400
Carol Lehtola, 352-392-1864 ext. 223

ARCADIA, Fla.—As the cleanup from Hurricane Charley continues — and Florida residents prepare for Hurricane Frances — Florida farmers are dealing with problems ranging from downed fences and missing cattle to loss of income from greenhouses and citrus groves ripped apart by the storm.

In Desoto County, where 60 percent or more of the citrus crop was destroyed, it will take at least three years for producers to get back on their feet, and some may just call it quits,” said Jim Selph, Desoto County extension director with the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

Selph, whose extension office is in Arcadia, Fla., said times are also tough for thousands of farm workers and businesses that depend on agriculture in rural areas such as DeSoto and Hardee counties.

“In addition to the housing crisis — many of Desoto county’s 33,000 residents lived in mobile homes that were shredded by the storm — we’ve got other problems that may not be immediately apparent to the average person. For example, standing water and mosquitoes are attacking cattle and causing them to lose weight at a time when they should be shipped to market,” Selph said.

“The best way to be prepared for future disasters — natural or not — is to expect the worse,” Selph said. “Sooner or later, you’re going to get a category 5 hurricane or a killer freeze.”

To help agricultural producers and other residents begin the long road to recovery from the nation’s second most expensive hurricane, the UF/IFAS Extension Service is working with state and federal agencies to get feed, fencing and other materials to farmers. The Extension Service is also helping residents cope with stress caused by economic damage that seems overwhelming.

Charles Vavrina, extension district director at the UF/IFAS Southwest Florida Research and Education Center in Immokalee who is coordinating recovery efforts in Charlotte, Desoto, Hardee and other counties hit hard by the storm, offered some advice for agricultural producers.

The following tips — along with detailed information on a wide range of agricultural problems — are in The Disaster Handbook produced by the UF/IFAS Extension Service and is also available online at

  • Delay permanent repairs until buildings are thoroughly dry.
  • Spread wet feeds to dry. Avoid feeding wet feeds to livestock unless absolutely necessary.
  • To avoid a fire hazard, move wet hay outside and spread it out to dry.
  • Move livestock to unflooded pastures to prevent disease.
  • Get rid of pests such as rodents, snakes and insects.
  • Promptly dispose of animal carcasses.
  • Disassemble, clean, dry and lubricate farm machinery. Do not start motors or engines until they are cleaned and reconditioned.
  • Clear and open drains, ditches, channels, small streams and tile-drain outlets. Drain floodwater, if possible, from fields.
  • Plug breaks in dikes. Use temporary structures to stop breaks and prevent high water.
  • Clear debris, especially barbed wire and other materials that could be dangerous to livestock, from lots and fields.
  • Avoid overexertion and strain in lifting and moving heavy objects or loads.
  • When using kerosene, keep away from heat, sparks and open flame.
  • Keep animals and unauthorized people away from chemical storage facilities and adjacent areas. Be alert for signs of pesticide poisoning.