Louisiana Agriculture Racks Up Damage Costs From Hurricane Ida

Hurricane Ida's devastation

Hurricane Ida hit the shores of Louisiana nearly a month ago, bringing Category 4 hurricane winds and severe flooding. The storm caused at least $584 million in damage to agriculture in the state, as estimated by experts at the LSU AgCenter.

  • More than 50% of the damage costs were to the Louisiana timber industry due to wind-snapped trees
  • 35% of the damage costs were to buildings, equipment, and other infrastructure
  • $9.5 million in costs were due to impacts on produce and ornamental horticulture
  • Estimates don't include massive damages to the fishing industry

"This storm was a monster," Thomas Hymel, an agent with the LSU AgCenter and Louisiana Sea Grant, told the AP. "It has just blown apart the supply chain, the infrastructure, and the docks. Some of these places will take a long time to recover.

Why This Matters

Even though the storm subsided weeks ago, its impacts have not. For the people in Louisiana working in agriculture, the economic damage and time it will take to recover comes on top of the storm's multilayered impacts. From delays in restoring power outages during intense heat and downed power lines to the destruction of people's homes, the state is still in need of basic services to recalibrate. In the agriculture sector, recovery could take years. Only a tiny fraction of timber brought down by last year's Hurricanes Laura and Delta could be sold.

"Devastating" Damage to Fishing Industry

It's still unknown just how many fishing boats and docks were swept away by Hurricane Ida, but the initial assessments are sobering. In some areas, this year's storm caused more damage than Hurricane Katrina, which cost seafood businesses more than $1 billion. Those damages could add up to half of the industry's $2.4 billion annual profit; the sector employs more than 23,000 people along the Louisiana coast who harvest and process fish, oysters, and crabs. Oyster production has already been low after taking hits from past hurricanes and the BP oil spill.

"This thing just seemed to beat and beat and beat, kind of mixing it up like a washing machine," Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser, whose office oversees seafood promotion, told the AP. "I think that slow-moving storm beating these boats against the docks, against each other, caused a lot more vessels to sink and have major damage."

This Week in Lousiana Agriculture: Hurricane Ida Aftermath, September 3, 2021.

Vox: How climate change makes hurricanes worse, August 28, 2017.