Cows in a field with a looming wildfire

What’s in a Name? Spring Weather & Natural Disasters

Tiger.
Reba.
Brady.
Willie.

In our society, being recognized by only one name means you have transcended traditional celebrity to a new level. Last fall, we added three to this list of single-name celebrities.

Harvey.
Irma.
Maria.

We all saw the photos of flooded urban areas, with highways turned to rivers. The tragedy of Houston, South Florida and the impossible situation in Puerto Rico. And outside the city limits, the impact on ag production was massive. According to official numbers, the ag loss from these three storms alone totals more than $3.4 billion.

  • Harvey: According to a Texas A&M report, Harvey caused more than $200 million in crop and livestock losses. Many cotton farmers in South Texas were on the verge of harvesting one of the best crops ever. Livestock losses, which account for nearly half of the total losses, included industry infrastructure. These numbers don’t factor in the probable impact on the oyster harvest, which won’t be known until the end of April — the total losses could be well over the $200 million mark.
  • Irma: The Florida Department of Agriculture estimates that the financial toll to the state’s ag economy is $2.5 billion, and could get worse. That number is for current damages and does not take into account the losses to future production and the need to rebuild infrastructure. Some sources say that up to 60 percent of Florida citrus production was decimated. Florida wasn’t the only victim of Irma; her graze of Puerto Rico took out an additional $45 million in ag production.
  • Maria: While the number isn’t as staggering as the impact of Irma, the repercussions are just as jaw dropping. According to Puerto Rico’s secretary of agriculture, more than 80 percent of the island’s crop value — a loss of $780 million — is gone thanks to Maria.

A toll of this size is almost unfathomable. Except it isn’t a rarity.

Kansas, for example, faced the worst wildfires in state history in 2017, with damage estimates nearing $100 million. This includes 3,700 miles of burned fence and closing in on 8,000 head of cattle lost. This number doesn’t include homes, barns, replacing burned power lines or the more than $3 million spent fighting the fires.

Fighting Mother Nature is commonplace for not only farmers and rancher, but also for the many industries that support them. From drought to flood to weather extremes, it’s not a matter of if, but of when.

When will my farm get hit?

When will my ranch burn?

This questioning drives the game of cat and mouse that the farmer plays with Mother Nature. And that game doesn’t seem to be ending in 2018. The U.S. Drought Monitor is showing areas of extreme and exceptional drought across the Southwest. Additionally, 40 of the 50 states are showing some level of drought as of the end of March, with several areas looking at long-term drought impacts.

US Drought Monitor report for March 27, 2018

Combine this with the impending spring tornado season, and the weather woes are just beginning for U.S. farmers and ranchers.

Unfortunately, this isn’t a situation that can be prevented. We can’t will a storm away or prevent a wildfire in a drought year. There is no preventive step that keeps the disaster at bay. But what we can do is be prepared to deal with the disaster when it happens. Preparedness is key — for farmers and for the marketers that support them.

For farmers and ranchers, AgWeb has a great resource guide for not just preparedness but where to go after the storm, if you will. From national and regional resources to how to prepare articles, this is a great place to start when preparing to deal with Mother Nature.

For marketers, it’s all about being ready to help when needed. Suppliers and other input providers to agriculture should be ready to pitch in when their customers need help, whether it’s a corporate initiative or empowering sales teams to get involved in local efforts. Maybe it’s as simple as extending the early order program for a retail outlet that gets hit by a hurricane in November. Or delaying delivery of product when a tornado tears through a community in the spring.

Bottom line, having a company you spend a great deal of money with show up in the bad times means more than when you show up in the good. Bad times will happen. How do you want your customers to remember your company?