Iowa Public Television


2004 Hurricane Season Approaches Half-Way Mark

posted on October 1, 2004

Hello, I'm Mark Pearson.

This week's status report on the economy provides another good news-bad news scenario. New home sales are up, but consumer confidence is down. Energy costs shoot higher as the unemployment rate drops. It's tough to draw conclusions.

A couple of reports, however, did lend some clarity. *The Commerce Department says the U.S. economy grew at an annual rate of 3.3 percent in the second quarter of the year  the weakest showing in more than a year. *Personal income, the fuel for future economic growth, climbed just four-tenths of a percent in August. *But the global economy will expand by 5 percent in 2004, its strongest growth in three decades.

That world outlook is critical to export-dependent U.S. agriculture. Overseas sales of U.S. farm goods have risen steadily in recent years as global economies have strengthened.

The problem for farmers in the South this fall is ensuring they even have a crop to sell. The arrival early this week of Hurricane Jeanne was the latest blow from a quartet of big storms that have ripped through Dixie.

2004 Hurricane Season Approaches Half-Way Mark It has not been a good summer for most of the South. On August 13, hurricane Charley came out of the Gulf of Mexico and struck Florida with winds of 145 miles per hour. On September 5, hurricane Frances struck from the Atlantic side. On September 16, hurricane Ivan made landfall in South Central Alabama. Nine days later, hurricane Jeanne (Jean) brought its category three winds of 120 miles per hour and traveled almost the exact same path as Frances.

In the wake of these closely spaced storms are thousands of acres of damaged fruit, vegetable and fiber crops, as well as tobacco plants and lumber trees. The USDA's Farm Service Agency estimates $150 million worth of Florida's seven billion dollar citrus crop has been destroyed. News of the destruction sent orange juice futures to ten-month highs.

Insurance companies are putting the damage total for Florida alone at an estimated $18 billion dollars. Emergency officials see the cost as millions without power and 133 lives lost across six states.

President Bush has asked for an additional $7.1 billion in aid for all affected Southern states, bringing the total requests for assistance to $12.2 billion. Included in the most recent package is more than $400 million for farmers.

Even so, farmers may get more funds from an unlikely source. Included in the fiscal Year 2005 Homeland Security bill is $3 billion in emergency agriculture disaster aid.

Tags: crops hurricanes news storms weather