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The financial impact of Hurricane Irma on Florida farms

Hurricane season is upon us, and Hurricane Irma has tragically led to destruction across Florida. It has threatened our lives, property and unfortunately will have implications for months or maybe even years to come. The full extent of the damage is still not easy to say at this point but it has been predicted that Irma could be responsible for the loss of crop production to the value of around $1.2 billion.

Florida is the top grower of crops such as green beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, oranges and sugar. The loss of these crops could have devastating consequences for Florida farmers, potentially leading to higher debts and the threat of bankruptcy.

The scenario has been unavoidable and nothing can prepare farmers or protect their crops from the unforgiving strains. One strawberry farmer based near Plant City has talked about his feeling of powerlessness to the situation, and the possibility that the 500 acres of sheeting that has been laid down in an attempt to protect his crops may have been a waste of labor.

The one silver lining in this otherwise literal cloud is that a September hurricane is considered a less devastating time for farmers than October or November. However, farmers reportedly took two years to recover from Hurricane Donna, which was considered less severe than Irma.

Financial difficulties for farmers

Farmers who might have already been struggling with growing debt may become crippled by such a vast loss of crops. One way that they might be able to remedy the situation is through filing for Chapter 12 bankruptcy, which assists farms in making a financial recovery.

Source: Bloomberg, "Fearing wave of bankruptcies, U.S. corn belt wants new debt cap," Alan Bjerga, Sep. 07, 2017

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