As Hurricane Michael barrels toward the Florida coast, some are concerned about the negative ramifications the potentially life-threatening Category 4 storm could have on the U.S. agriculture industry.
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Michael -- expected to be the strongest hurricane to hit the Florida Panhandle in 100 years -- is expected to make landfall Wednesday afternoon between Panama City Beach and Apalachicola, likely generating storm surges of up to 13 feet and flash flooding from heavy rainfall, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Arriving just weeks after Hurricane Florence unleashed its wrath on the Carolinas, Michael is expected to move north, possibly causing more flooding in North and South Carolina.
“The Carolinas must feel like they’re in a pinch, obviously Florence coming from the East and then this Hurricane Michael coming from the Southeast,” Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said on Wednesday during an interview with FOX Business’ Maria Bartiromo. “It’s harvest time, usually a great time of the year to be out in the fields, and they’re too wet.”
Florence hammered agriculture in both of the Carolinas, with the North Carolina poultry sector losing more than 4.1 million birds in total, according to Reuters. Hog deaths were estimated to be about 5,550. North Carolina is the biggest producer of hogs in the U.S.
Perdue acknowledged the “horrific” situation in the Carolinas and the damage from Florence, urging farmers to take advantage of safety net programs offered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, like crop insurance. The USDA Farm Service Agency also administers a program that provides funding and technical assistance to farmers and ranchers whose crop was damaged by natural disasters.
“That’s why the farm bill is important as a safety net for those people who lose everything,” he said. “Farmers take so much risk every year.”