Florida Agriculture Takes Big Hit From Hurricane Charley

Florida is facing a multi-billion dollar economic hit from Hurricane Charley. Not only are workers displaced from their homes, entire businesses have been wiped out.

State officials are acting fast to try to salvage the agriculture and tourism industries. Hurricane Charley wiped out entire citrus groves, killed livestock and flattened greenhouses.

Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson says Florida’s Ag industry is looking at hundreds of millions of dollars in losses.

Charles Bronson says, “Their processing plants, their nurseries have been destroyed as well, so from an economic standpoint, that figure is going to be quite substantial.”

State Ag officials are now trying to determine who may be covered by crop insurance, be eligible for low-interest loans or possibly federal grants.

The state has not made any decisions yet on whether there will be a special legislative session to deal with Charley’s economic impact, but some of the programs that came out of September 11th may work here too. In particular, state officials worry Charley will affect Florida’s $50 billion tourism industry. They’re talking about a new ad campaign, much like Florida ran after 9/11.

Lt. Gov. Toni Jennings says, “Florida has been impacted, but there are lots of beautiful areas in Florida that are still available for tourism and as we look at the long Labor Day weekend coming up, we want that message out.”

One bright spot may be, surprisingly, the insurance industry. Florida Insurance Council Spokesman Sam Miller says it’s much healthier than it was 12 years ago when Andrew hit.

Sam says, “I don’t think rates are going to go up substantially if at all. I don’t think you’ll see non-renewals, I don’t think you’ll see bankruptcies. We had 12 companies killed by Hurricane Andrew.”

Insured homes and businesses will hopefully be replaced quickly, but jobs lost could take much longer to replace. Only about half of the $30 billion in losses Florida suffered in Hurricane Andrew were covered by insurance.