UGA economists estimate up to $600 million in cotton damage from Hurricane Michael

By for CAES News

University of Georgia agricultural economists believe that Georgia cotton farmers in the path of Hurricane Michael have only begun to feel the impact of the storm that took 90 or 100 percent of many area growers’ crops.

This week, Yangxuan Liu, assistant professor of agricultural and applied economics in the University of Georgia’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES), and UGA Cooperative Extension agricultural economist Amanda Smith released preliminary cost estimates of Hurricane Michael’s damage to Georgia’s cotton industry.

Their initial estimates of farm gate value loss range from $550 million to $600 million. This includes losses related to cotton lint, cottonseed and reductions in fiber quality.

UGA’s estimated loss value for cotton is still preliminary. Updates will be provided as more data is collected, Liu said.

“We took into consideration yield loss variation across the state and adjusted our estimates accordingly,” she said.

“We are still in the process of gathering more data from cotton farmers and county agents.”

Because heavy rains and winds occurred when the bulk of Georgia’s cotton crop was at risk, Liu cautions farmers that quality issues may be a problem.

“Some harvested cotton modules in the field were damaged by wind and rain, which might degrade quality. The cotton harvested after the hurricane might face quality discounts as well, because more mature bolls of possibly higher quality were lost,” she said.

Liu cited U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates that only 12 percent of Georgia’s cotton crop had been harvested prior to the storm’s arrival. Eighty-eight percent of cotton bolls were open and susceptible to the hurricane’s destructive winds.

Hurricane Michael’s path up through southwest Georgia significantly impacted the region that is responsible for some of the top cotton production in Georgia. Southwestern Georgia counties Colquitt, Crisp, Decatur, Dooly, Early, Mitchell and Worth were hit hard by the hurricane — and make up seven of the top-10 cotton-producing counties in the state, according to the USDA’s figures for 2017.

Cotton is the largest row crop in Georgia. According to the USDA, the farm gate value for Georgia-grown cotton and cottonseed in 2017 was $867 million with more than 1.2 million harvested acres.

Producers should contact their local UGA Extension agents to report any losses or for more information about estimating storm damage.

“The impact of Hurricane Michael will extend beyond the farm gate level. Cotton gins, local communities and the entire Georgia economy are likely to experience the ripple effect of Hurricane Michael for years to come,” said Jeff Dorfman, a professor of agricultural and applied economics at CAES.

For up-to-date information on Georgia’s cotton crop, see www.ugacotton.com.

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