Wilton Simpson: Florida timber took $64M hit from Idalia

hurricane Michael timber
It's more bad news for the hard-hit Big Bend.

The Sunshine State’s timber industry suffered millions worth of damage from Hurricane Idalia.

A bleak assessment from Agriculture Commissioner Wilton Simpson means the Big Bend region will need immediate and long-term attention from authorities. Simpson’s Office figures that the Category 4 storm wreaked havoc to the tune of more than $64,750,000 in the tree sector alone.

It’s the latest toll on the timber industry, which is still reeling from news last week that a massive cellulose plant would be pulling out of the region, having an immediate impact on the hundreds of Floridians who work there and an untold effect on their families and those in lines of work adjacent to the soon-to-be-shuttered mill.

In a statement, Simpson stressed that the Big Bend’s reliance on timber makes the forecast all the more “devastating.”

“This does not take into account any potential future harm or disease that could come to remaining timber stands,” he added. “Due to the decadeslong investment between the time of planting to harvesting, these communities will not only need immediate support but also long-term solutions to recover.”

The early estimates add to a number of other reports proving the storm costly. Other estimates show that the agriculture industry in total may have suffered up to $371 million in damage. Individual claims have surpassed the $200 million mark.

Non-storm factors are also rocking the Big Bend region, the area most affected by Idalia. Simpson’s forecasts come just days after Georgia-Pacific announced it would be closing its Foley Cellulose mill, an economic engine of the nearby Perry town. Georgia-Pacific said the closure means more than 500 mill workers would be out of a job.

Simpson has said the mill closure is “devastating” and called on investors to purchase the mill. Georgia-Pacific has insisted the closure wasn’t wrought by Idalia, instead claiming it was a “strategic decision” made prior to the storm.

A copy of the preliminary damage assessment for timber can be found here.

The state and federal governments have recently collaborated on recovery efforts. Simpson has already rolled out a reimbursement program from irrigation fixes. Both he and Gov. Ron DeSantis have been in touch with U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack about federal help.

“I will continue working with local, state, and federal partners to ensure that impacted producers have access to the recovery resources they deserve,” Simpson said in a statement.

Danny McAuliffe

Danny is a contributor at floridapolitics.com. He is a graduate of Fordham Law School and Florida State University, where he served as the editor of the FSView & Florida Flambeau. Reach him at [email protected].


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