Ida damage to growers estimated at $584 million

Hurricane Ida did at least $584 million in damage to the Louisiana agriculture industry, according to a new report from the LSU AgCenter.

Timber damage makes up about half that amount, economist Kurt Guidry said. Another 35% is attributable to the loss of infrastructures such as fences, machinery, equipment, and buildings. Sugarcane, fruit, vegetable, and ornamental horticulture crops, as well as livestock, were also affected.

Southeast Louisiana is home to produce and ornamental horticulture growers. The storm has cost those sectors at least $9.5 million, Guidry said, most of which is tied to infrastructure damage.

“A lot of greenhouse roofs were damaged and need to be replaced,” said Will Afton, an AgCenter agent in St. Tammany Parish. “Plants were blown about, and the power outage really hit them hard. They need electricity to run irrigation pumps. Most have backup generators to use in this type of situation, but some of these devices hadn’t been used in a while, so kinks had to be worked out on the fly. It was a stressful situation.”

Most retail garden centers in Afton’s area are back up and running, he said. But they, too, had to deal with irrigation problems. Plus, power outages hampered financial transactions.

Guidry said he has heard few reports of animal losses from the storm. But the livestock death toll, currently estimated at 22, could grow because “given the difficult conditions and environments that continue to persist, there is some concern of future deaths as animals continue to be under considerable stress.”

“Given the amount of infrastructure damage and the amount of cleanup required,” Guidry said, “many producers, especially older producers, have indicated they would likely liquidate their entire cattle operation.”

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