University of Florida economists continue to hone data sets and methods to improve predictions of the monetary losses to Florida agriculture with each extreme weather event. However, with westward-bound Hurricane Nicole – which came ashore as a hurricane but spend most of its landfall as a tropical storm – impacting much of the same land area that category 4 Hurricane Ian swept through just a few weeks prior, the director of the UF/IFAS Economic Impact Analysis Program says the data her team references are less applicable to the current situation.
“The impact to agricultural production due to Hurricane Ian is not only still being felt – it’s still not entirely accounted for,” said Christa Court, who is also an assistant professor in the food and resource economics department. “Much of this area has already experienced two extreme weather events in 2022 – a hard freeze in January and Hurricane Ian in September – making our baseline data less accurate, and now we’re adding a third event.”
Agriculture is a significant contributor to the state’s economy, producing 200-300 commodities from livestock to aquaculture to fruit and vegetable crops. Hurricane Ian brought hurricane-strength (74-156 mph) winds to nearly 1.2 million acres of agricultural lands, including a large swath of citrus-producing counties. Court anticipates a final report on the economic impact of Ian could be completed by the end of November.
“The crop may already be lower quality or quantity after Ian than in previous years,” she said, “and although it’s rare that we get reports of total losses from a farm, my program also hasn’t yet measured two hurricanes in the same growing season impacting the same area.”
The post-storm assessment surveys – completed via an online survey or paper survey by local Florida Cooperative Extension agents or producers themselves – aim to capture impacts to production and sales revenues for the wide variety of commodities covered. Even ancillary components of operations can be affected, and these impacts will be captured, although Court adds that the value of infrastructure losses is more difficult to estimate.
Court emphasized that surveys deployed by her program are among the tools used to inform the official processes of disaster declaration and disaster relief and recovery efforts. Another survey has been released following Nicole, and she encourages agricultural producers to assess their lands as soon as it is safe to do so and to report their observations, even if damage and losses were minimal or zero.
“I recognize the potential for survey fatigue, which is why we continue to adjust our survey to be as straightforward as possible,” Court said. “Our survey for Hurricane Ian has hit a record number of responses, and we thank all who have helped us capture a more accurate representation of its damage and resulting losses. It is important that we can do the same for anyone whose lands are affected by Hurricane Nicole.”
Producers can access the survey at go.ufl.edu/nicoleagimpacts.