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AgCenter estimates more than $1.6 billion in ag, forestry losses from Hurricane Laura

AgCenter marsh prescribed burn class Oct 23 in Lafayette
Posted at 11:26 AM, Sep 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-15 12:35:55-04

The LSU AgCenter is estimating agriculture and forestry losses from Hurricane Laura will exceed $1.6 billion

The AgCenter says that Hurricane Laura caused $525.4 million in damage to Louisiana farmers and $1.1 billion to the Louisiana timber industry, according to preliminary estimates.

They say that Laura devastated 757,538 acres of timber from the southwest to northeast parts of the state. In comparison, agricultural losses — including forestry, crops and fisheries — from hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005 totaled $1.5 billion.

According to their report, Laura’s $1.6 billion total in losses for Louisiana agriculture will likely increase when damage estimates for the fisheries industry are completed by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.

For more, click here.

Below is a look at the breakdown in several agricultural and forestry industries and the damages estimated.

Most of the agricultural losses involve infrastructure damage, according to an agronomic crops report. That report broke down the impacts on farmers into five categories:

  • Reduced production resulted in losses, $48.4 million.
  • Stored commodity losses, $6.9 million.
  • Livestock losses and forced liquidation, $1.4 million.
  • Increased crop production costs, $6.7 million
  • Infrastructure damage, $462 million.

The report says most damage was caused by wind. “Unlike other storms that resulted in widespread and prolonged flooding, Hurricane Laura moved quickly through the state with flooding being generally confined to tidal surge along the coast. However, excessive winds throughout Laura’s entire path through the state caused significant infrastructure damage.”

Wind caused row crops to lodge, or be blown over.

Rice

The state’s rice crop suffered most, the report says, with 74,000 acres affected for an economic impact of $28.5 million. Yield losses for the first and second crops are estimated at 1.7 million hundredweight, with average losses of 38% for the first crop and 37% for the second crop. Stored rice losses total $6 million. Electricity needed to power drying systems in storage bins was lost throughout southwest Louisiana, and some storage bins were damaged by winds. Increased harvest costs are projected at $1.3 million.

“There were also significant acres of rice that was in the flowering stage of its development,” the report says. “High winds during that time is expected to lead to reduced pollination and reduced overall production.”

Sugarcane

A 3.2% yield reduction is projected for the 182,000 affected acres for a total loss of 50 million pounds valued at $8.2 million. Replanting is needed on 1,224 acres, costing almost $700,000 and bringing the total economic impact estimated to $8.8 million.

Soybeans

Yield on 153,000 affected acres is projected to be decreased by 9.6%, or 828,000 bushels, costing more than $8 million. Increased harvest costs from downed soybeans is expected to cost farmers $1.3 million, bringing the total losses to $9.4 million.

Cotton

The total impact amount of $6.5 million results from an 11.2% yield decrease of 7.8 million pounds on almost 60,000 affected acres for a $5 million loss. The total includes an additional $1.5 million from increased harvest costs.

Crawfish

The estimate concludes that 5,000 acres of crawfish ponds are affected, with an estimated loss of 75%, or 2 million pounds, for a total impact of $2.7 million.

Corn

The report says almost 17,000 affected acres will have a 15% yield loss of 526,000 bushels, and an increased harvest cost of $124,155 for a total of $2 million in losses.

Other commodities

The report says 10,750 acres of hay production was affected, with a 32% yield loss and more than $800,000 in storage losses that will cost almost $1.5 million.

The loss of grazing days on 703,400 acres is expected to cost $1.4 million. Pecan losses totaling $745,240 are figured with a 34% yield reduction on 3,904 acres for a crop reduction of 573,262 pounds.

The storm had minimal impact on sweet potatoes, with losses estimated at about $30,000. Grain sorghum losses are estimated at almost $43,000.

Livestock

The total livestock economic impact is estimated at $1.8 million.

Most of that is from the economic impact on cattle producers, estimated at $1.2 million. The report bases that figure on 130 cattle deaths, costing $88,400; 5,775 animals liquidated, costing $785,400; and 36,675 head evacuated, costing $324,000. In poultry, the estimated loss of 101,000 birds is projected to cost $545,400. Much of that resulted from power outages that shut down cooling systems needed to control temperatures in chicken houses.

A dozen horses died from the storm, and 530 were evacuated, bringing the total impact to $38,575. Losses for sheep, hogs and goat were less than $1,000.

Infrastructure

Buildings and facilities carried the biggest part of Louisiana’s agricultural damage estimate with a value of $403.2 million. The report estimates that the storm damaged a third of the ag-related buildings and other structures across 13 parishes. Also, the storm damaged 5,100 miles of fencing that will cost $58.8 million to repair or replace, according to the report.

Guidry said several aid programs are available through the Farm Service Agency. “Also, for those parishes designated as disaster areas, emergency farm loans are typically made available,” he said.

Federal legislative action would be required for additional assistance.“In other storm events, there have been programs that have been made available,” Guidry said.

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