MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — Hurricane Ian left a path of destruction behind in parts of Florida last year. The massive storm uprooted trees, ripped apart structures, and left some communities flooded. In eastern Manatee County, the agricultural industry took a big hit during the storm.
A dairy farm in Myakka City lost more than 200 of its dairy cows during the storm. A tree nursery in Parrish suffered $4 million in losses, plus about two years of its production growth.
Hunsader Farms also suffered significant losses, adding up to about half a million dollars.
“We had about 120 mph winds out here. We lost about 80% to 90% of our tomatoes, we lost 100% of our watermelon, cantaloupes, squash, and pumpkins, said manager Rachel Hunsader-Sliker.
She said people in the industry know farming is a gamble, but in 2022, there were many who didn’t win as a result of Hurricane Ian.
“It was definitely heartbreaking to see everything that we worked so hard for from when we started it from the seed and planted in the ground and within a week or two it would have been ready to harvest,” said the farm’s manager. “To see all of that work go into it, and all of the labor and finances for it to not come full circle and the money that we lost on it, it was really… It was hard to take in,” she continued.
Economists with the University of Florida estimate the state suffered $1.03 billion in agricultural losses due to the storm. Manatee County was at the top of the list, followed by Hillsborough and Palm Beach counties.
Dr. Christa Court, who is the director of the economic impact analysis program at the University of Florida, explained the $1.03 billion figure is solely production losses.
“It is just the lost revenue, not including the damage to infrastructure, or any kind of repair or replacement costs, that they might have for a farm building or equipment. It is not including things like trees in a citrus grove that fell down. We would only include the fruit that was lost from that tree, but not the value or cost of replacing the tree or replacing something like a livestock animal that produces a product like milk,” Court explained.
Several agencies are offering aid to farmers impacted by Hurricane Ian including the Small Business Administration and the USDA.