Agriculture losses from Hurricane Florence will top $1.1 billion, and that’s just in NC

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North Carolina farmers and livestock growers will suffer more than $1.1 billion in losses as a result of Hurricane Florence, the state Department of Agriculture said Wednesday.

The largest losses will be among farmers who grow crops such as corn, soybeans and tobacco. The state estimates the value of damaged and destroyed row crops at nearly $987 million.

Hurricane Florence came ashore just as farmers were beginning their fall harvests and lingered for several days, dropping record amounts of rain on Southeastern North Carolina.

“We knew the losses would be significant because it was harvest time for so many of our major crops and the storm hit our top six agricultural counties especially hard,” Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler said in a statement Wednesday. “These early estimates show just what a devastating and staggering blow this hurricane leveled at our agriculture industry.”

In addition to row crops, the state estimates losses of nearly $70 million to commercial forests; $30 million for lawn and landscaping growers; nearly $27 million for vegetables and horticulture crops, and about $23 million for livestock, poultry and aquaculture growers.

Livestock producers have reported that the storm killed an estimated 5,500 hogs and 4.1 million chickens and turkeys.

The state based it estimates on the portion of crops remaining in the field in the 35 counties hit hardest by the storm. They also looked at the average crop production in those counties over the last five years and the current prices of commodities.

The losses to agriculture from Florence will far exceed those of Hurricane Matthew two years ago, even though the flooding after that storm was as bad or worse in many areas. That’s because Matthew hit in October, after far more of the harvest had taken place. The state says Matthew did an estimated $400 million in damage to agriculture.