By Jill Nolin, CNHI State Reporter
ATLANTA – Hurricane Michael has the potential to deliver a blow to Georgia’s pecan and cotton growers, who have not yet harvested their crops.
The state’s pecan growers, who suffered major losses last hurricane season, could stand to lose the most if Hurricane Michael brings its devastating winds and rain to Georgia.
“If we lose trees like we did last year, it’s going to be a sad day,” Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black said, referring to pecan trees.
It’s unclear what the economic impact could be at this point, but farmers are only about one-fifth of their way into picking cotton and the pecan harvest has only just begun, Black said. The peanut harvest is halfway finished.
“I’m real concerned about southwest Georgia,” Black said. “If we take it on the chin again, it’s going to be tough.”
Black’s comments came shortly after Gov. Nathan Deal declared a state of emergency for more than half the state and while Hurricane Michael continued to build strength off the shore of the Florida Panhandle.
The storm is expected to be a tropical storm by the time it crosses Georgia Wednesday evening, but it could still pack major winds and heavy rains. The state of emergency was in effect for 92 counties, reaching as far north as the Milledgeville area.
“The state is mobilizing all available resources to ensure public safety ahead of Hurricane Michael,” Deal said a statement Tuesday morning. “In light of the storm’s forecasted track, I encourage Georgians in the affected counties to be prepared and remain vigilant.”
Deal’s emergency declaration, which is in effect for a week, bars businesses from jacking up the price on fuel and other goods. Suspected price gouging and scams during and after the storm can be reported to the Attorney General’s Office at 1-800-869-1123.
The governor recently declared a state of emergency for the entire state ahead of Hurricane Florence, which ultimately spared Georgia when it veered farther northeast and came ashore in North Carolina.
Georgia’s officials urged residents to listen to local advisories and take the storm seriously.
“Hurricane Michael is moving quickly, gaining strength, and has the potential to impact many Georgians as it makes landfall,” U.S. Senator David Perdue said in a statement Tuesday afternoon.
Jill Nolin covers the Georgia Statehouse for CNHI’s newspapers and websites. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.