Hurricane Irene Is Another Hit on U.S. Food Production
September 1, 2011 • 10:49AM

The loss of agricultural production across 13 states from Hurricane Irene, though not comparing with the huge losses already occurring this year from severe Texas-Oklahoma drought and severe Midwest flooding, will further reduce American harvests at a critical point in the global food supply crisis.

Corn and soybean crops, supposed to be harvested in coming weeks, are underwater and destroyed in some river valleys in the Northeast, while dairy farmers can not ship milk in the Northeast, due to paralyzed or destroyed roads, bridges, and rails.

In the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic, the worst-hit crop is tobacco, but in New York and the "Garden State" of New Jersey it is corn, soy, and vegetables of all kinds, and in Vermont, widespread destruction of dairy infrastructure. Darrel J. Aubertine, New York State commissioner of Agriculture and Markets, said Aug. 31, "I've been involved in agriculture my entire life, and there have been times when the weather has wreaked havoc on livestock and farms, but I don't think I have ever seen anything on this scale here in New York." Corn, onion, and other vegetable crops are flooded out or heavily damaged throughout some of the most fertile valleys in the United States, the Hudson, Mohawk, and Schoharie Valleys.

New York Senators Schumer and Gillebrand asked Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack for an "agricultural disaster" declaration as well as the overall disaster declaration already made for New York. The state's overall reconstruction costs will probably hit or exceed $2 billion.

Sen. Bernie Sanders says of VT, "Vermont has suffered the worst natural disaster in the history of the state. We have very, very serious problems that are going to end up costing a very significant amount of money." Leaving aside no electricity to most of the state as of now, State Transportation Secretary Minter says the infrastructure damage is "like from an earthquake." 263 roads are out, 35 highway bridges and 4 rail bridges out; 12 towns are completely isolated, including the city of Rochester. The situation in Connecticut is 1,000 roads out and more than half the state still without power. Amtrak rail service is generally shut down throughout the mid-Atlantic and Northeast.

Hurricane Irene will be one the 10 worst natural disasters in U.S. history by cost, estimated already at $7-10 billion in economic losses.