Published on 10/30/08

Fay damages crops in 31 Georgia counties

By Sharon Dowdy
University of Georgia

Tropical Storm Fay brought much needed rainfall to Georgia in late August, but it caused $159 million in damage to crops in 31 south Georgia counties, according to a University of Georgia economic impact study.

Colquitt, Mitchell and Brooks counties in southwest Georgia were the hardest hit by the storm.

Conducted by the UGA Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development, the study evaluated the damage five weeks after the storm and the resulting economic impact it had in the area, said Archie Flanders, an economist with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

“We released a production value loss report a few days after the storm, but it’s difficult to determine the full extent of damage for many crops immediately after a weather event,” Flanders said. “Harvesting of some crops had begun at the time of the storm, but other crops were weeks away from harvest.”

Crop conditions can improve after a storm, but the potential for disease pressure is also a lingering concern, he said.

The storm caused $54 million in damage to vegetable crops, or 70 percent of the expected value, Flanders said. Ninety-eight percent of the vegetable losses occurred in Colquitt County alone.

A quarter of the cotton crop in the affected counties was lost, totaling $62 million in damage. Pecans had the third greatest loss from the storm with 29 percent of the expected production value lost, or $21.1 million, Flanders said.

Peanut suffered $10 million in damage, or eight percent of the expected value. The storm knocked almost $5 million off the value of tobacco in the area and $1 million off the soybeans.

“Economic changes in agriculture reach other sectors of the state economy," he said.

Though the storm cost farmers $159 million in potential income, the lack of that money has a ripple effect, costing the economy another $108 million in potential revenue. Fay’s blow cost Georgia a total of $267 million.

Sharon Dowdy is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.