The impact of agriculture damage from Hurricane Michael is rippling through southeast Alabama’s regional economy. The associate director of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System said total agriculture impacts top $300 million and could cost the region more than 2,500 jobs.
“Direct agricultural losses total $204 million alone,” said Dr. Paul Brown, Extension’s storm response leader. “But when you consider associated impacts on agricultural suppliers and the absence of household spending, the total damage done by Michael to Alabama’s agriculture industry and communities reaches $307 million.”
Cotton, which is grown on about 200,000 acres in the region, accounts for about 54 percent of the total damage, or almost $163 million. Combined timber and pine straw losses reach $53 million, while livestock damages total more than $36 million.
Brown said there also is the potential for the loss of jobs.
“Our analysis shows it could mean as many as 2,500 jobs lost or affected in the Wiregrass economy,” he said. “The job impact occurs through decreased agricultural activity in the region and the downstream effects through the supply chain and on Main Street.
“There is a direct connection to what happens on the farm and the broader industry and dollars spent in other Wiregrass businesses, such as grocery stores, restaurants and other retail outlets,” he said.
Brown said data analysis revealed what a devastating blow Michael dealt to agriculture and the regional economy.
Houston County, which suffered the worst effects, will take the hardest hit to its economy with total losses of more than $146 million.
“We estimate that the Houston County economy alone could lose more than 1,200 jobs,” Brown said.
Geneva County was the second most affected county with total damages at more than $62 million and a possible job loss of 500. Henry County suffered losses of more than $45 million and potential job losses of more than 340.
Brown said that lost economic activity also will affect area governments. “Local and county governments will see a loss in tax revenues from the storm,” he said. “That means they have less money to support government functions and infrastructure.”
Extension estimates that local, state and federal tax revenues in the region could decline by as much as $22.8 million.
The projected economic and job losses do not include possible disaster assistance that could be provided to the Wiregrass. Brown said these losses would be tempered if disaster programs are provided to affected farmers. A positive trickle-down effect will lessen the losses to related industries, households and the community.
Alabama Extension will host a number of recovery meetings in the coming months to help farmers and producers move ahead. The first will be a livestock recovery meeting from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday. The meeting, which will be at the Alabama Extension Houston County office, will discuss management options for feeding, grazing and fencing as well as updates on federal recovery assistance programs for livestock producers.
Find the complete report online at www.aces.edu/impact/michael/index.php.
For more information, contact the Etowah County Extension Office.
Upcoming Extension Programs
• The New 4-H year has started. If you would like for your children, ages 9-18 to be involved, go to www.alabama4h.com and hit the “join” button to enroll them.
• 4-H Project Pig Squeal is now open for 2019. Contact the Extension Office for a registration form.
• The 2018 Alabama Fruit and Vegetable Growers Conference is Thursday and Nov. 16 at the Clanton Conference and Performing Arts Center, 850 Lay Dam Road, Clanton. Visit www.afvga.org for more details or contact the Etowah County Extension Office.
• The 2018 Alabama Row Crops Short Course is Dec. 13 and 14 at the Auburn University Hotel and Conference Center. The free course is an excellent opportunity for producers to expand their knowledge with researchers on the cutting edge of agricultural technology. For more information, contact Brenda Ortiz at firstname.lastname@example.org, Audrey Gamble at email@example.com or the Etowah County Extension Office.
• The Etowah County Extension Office would like to bring onsite learning opportunities to local businesses and companies while employees eat lunch or on breaks. “Learn On Your Own Turf” is an informal way for you receive up-to-date information on topics that concern you while also being able to ask questions of local Extension staff. Topics include, but are not limited to, gardening, estate planning basics, healthier lifestyles, nutrition, food safety, fly fishing, forestry, 4-H parent orientation, Beef 101, Swine 101, general animal nutrition, Poultry 101, pond upkeep, grass and forages. Workshops are free. If interested, please have your company’s HR department representative contact the Extension Office to get on the calendar.
For more information on this topic and many others, contact the Etowah County Extension Office, 256-547-7936 or 3200 A W. Meighan Blvd., Gadsden. Amy Burgess is extension coordinator for the Etowah County Extension Office.