After a significant disaster event like Hurricane Ian, the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) Economic Impact Analysis Program (EIAP) works to provide timely, credible estimates of agricultural losses. This is a critical component in the processes of official disaster declaration and disaster relief and recovery.
Agricultural loss estimates are based on survey responses submitted by agricultural producers and Florida Cooperative Extension faculty. When producers participate in the survey, they help ensure the accuracy of the estimate.
Christa Court, director of the UF/IFAS EIAP, explains how survey responses are used and why this information matters for Florida agriculture now and in the future.
How do producers access the survey for Hurricane Ian impacts and what does it ask for?
Producers can access the confidential survey at go.ufl.edu/ianagimpacts or by contacting their local UF/IFAS Extension county office to report by phone, receive a paper copy, or request an in-person assessment, where available.
The disaster assessment survey requests information including the type of respondent, whether the record is a first-hand observation or second-hand information, and the location of the farm, ranch or operation. After selecting a commodity group for the operation, the respondent is asked for relevant, commodity-specific information on acreage in production, number of animals on farm, and then details on production losses and damages. In addition, the survey requests information on stored products and inputs that might have been damaged or destroyed.
The final questions of the survey ask respondents to briefly describe any other types of damages or losses or provide general comments about the operation’s disaster experiences, and if they would like to upload photos recording the reported damage.
What is the survey for?
As a statewide organization, UF/IFAS conducts rapid assessment of agricultural losses and damages in the affected regions of Florida after a significant disaster event. While the assessment is not a formal component of a specific government agency’s decision process, the results of the UF/IFAS assessment are shared with administrators at the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the United States Department of Agriculture, United States Economic Development Agency and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, as well as with state-level industry associations.
How does this effort benefit producers and the agricultural industry in Florida?
This assessment informs decision-making at the local, state and federal levels related to disaster declaration, response and recovery. More specifically, survey responses and subsequent analyses provide data and insights to industry associations, government agencies, policy makers, and emergency management personnel. Responses are used for managing emergency planning exercises, emergency response specific to agriculture and natural resource systems, and strategies for adjustment or development of policy tools associated with resilience at the local, state, and national levels. More generally, the assessment results improve public understanding of the economic importance of agriculture in our state and how this sector is impacted by disaster events.
By participating in the survey, you will also help us get closer to two long-term goals: 1) to develop disaster-specific databases that allow for accurate and defensible rapid assessment without the need for surveys, and 2) to harmonize and standardize the data collection process across state and federal agencies and industry associations to relieve producers from redundant reporting in the aftermath of disaster events.
What if the questions don’t apply to me or don’t adequately cover the types of damages and losses experienced?
The UF/IFAS EIAP has designed the survey to request only the information that is directly relevant to a rapid, statewide assessment of impacts to all types of production agriculture across the state. Florida agriculture is very diverse, producing 200+ different commodities. The assessment covers only the commodities for which reliable, publicly accessible baseline data exist; however, it does include an “other” category within each commodity group where producers can report on types of commodities that are not listed. If you feel that your operations’ disaster experience will not be well represented by the responses to the questions in the survey, there is an open-ended question about the operation’s experience with the disaster where additional, relevant information can be entered. The UF/IFAS EIAP program is always looking to improve this tool and uses the information provided in this open-ended question as well as feedback from Florida Cooperative Extension, industry associations and producers to determine if adjustments to the survey are needed.
Other agencies and organizations collect this kind of information. Should producers still complete the UF/IFAS survey along with the others?
Yes. Several agencies and organizations collect much of the same information, but they are using it for different purposes. Producers are encouraged to participate in all assessment efforts that adequately protect their personal information and those in which results and outputs will inform decision-making processes related to disaster declaration, response and relief. For example, the United States Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency (1-877-508-8364 or firstname.lastname@example.org) collects information on agricultural losses that directly informs the processes of disaster declaration and relief at the federal level. UF/IFAS continues to engage with government agencies and industry associations involved in the assessment of agricultural losses and damages to encourage harmonization and consolidation of these different assessment tools.
Can producers use this assessment for insurance claims or other forms of official loss or damage documentation?
No, our data are collected as part of a research effort to rapidly assess agricultural damages and losses. As such, the individual level information collected is confidential and cannot be shared with individuals outside of the research team. If a producer would like to retain a copy of their responses for their own records to aid the completion of other forms or insurance claims, that can be arranged.
What happens to the data?
The information entered in the survey is downloaded and prepped for analysis by investigators from the UF/IFAS Economic Impact Analysis Program, which resides within the Food and Resource Economics Department at the University of Florida. All data for individual farm businesses and survey respondents are maintained confidentially, and only group totals or averages will be disclosed, as per the terms of the survey protocol approved by the University of Florida Institutional Review Board (IRB).
The investigators compile the survey information for all commodities in each county affected by the disaster. The survey information is used to calculate average and median levels of percentage losses to estimate the share of total volume and value of each commodity lost, based on available baseline information for the most recent year. Baseline data include information on total area, volume, price, value and crop growth stages of commodities, as well as total number and type of farm infrastructure in each county from sources such as the USDA’s U.S. Census of Agriculture and annual surveys by the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
When the analyses of survey data are complete, a summary of the estimated commodity losses and asset damages will be made available on the UF/IFAS Economic Impact Analysis Program’s Disaster Impact Analysis webpage (go.ufl.edu/disasters).
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