CLEWISTON — According to a report from the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, the cost of the damage to crops from the rain dumped on South Florida in November is estimated to be between $85 million and $320 million.
That damage has led to a jump in commodity prices for things like green beans, tomatoes and squash.
“It’s not going to affect corn that much at the retail level,” said Michael Bast, director of sales for Green Circles Farm. “Certain commodities like squash and green beans have gone up due to the weather. For corn we had two weeks of plantings that were completely washed out from flooding and rain. Because of wind and standing water on crops coming up, we’re going to have yield loss due to quality.”
Conditions weren’t very favorable before Tropical Storm Eta came through the area. The ground was already saturated after weeks of constant rain around South Florida.
Those conditions have led to farmers delaying planting and harvesting, with some nearly a month behind where they normally would be at this point in the year.
Sugar mills around Clewiston had to briefly shut down due to the weather, but were able to restart a few days after Eta left the area.
“Overall, Tropical Storm Eta, combined with prior heavy rainfall, caused losses for many of our growers, due to flooding and winds,” explained Yvette Goodiel of Martin County UF/IFAS Extension. “Though they are used to weather setbacks, took preventative steps before the storm and quickly acted to salvage whatever they could, many of our growers are still experiencing losses.”
In addition to the flooding, farmers had to contend with the wind the storm brought as well.
“Gusty winds tore coverings on some shadehouse and greenhouse structures and took down some livestock fences,” said Goodiel. “Farmers, ranchers and nurseries worked to quickly repair, protecting livestock and crops. Winds also blew fruit trees and vegetable crops over, scarred fruits, and caused premature fruit drop. Listing fruit trees are mostly being re-righted and staked by growers, with hopes they will survive. Smaller, tender vegetable crops that had been wind-damaged are in some cases beyond saving. Fruits blown off of trees prematurely were a loss. Equally a loss were fruits that were wind-scarred and rendered un-sellable.”