Georgia pecan crops damaged by Michael could spike holiday prices

South Georgia, North Florida grow bulk of nation's pecans

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – While much of nation has focused on the loss of life and damage along the Gulf Coast, Hurricane Michael also caused significant damage to crops in South Georgia.

The losses could hit pecan pie lovers in the pocketbook this holiday season.

Michael whipped a pecan orchard with 125 mph winds, dropping 2 million pounds on the ground. 

“Thirty to 40 percent of the pecan trees are gone, in my opinion," said fourth-generation pecan grower Eric Cohen. "Basically, the storm Michael went right through the heart, I mean, where the majority of the pecans are at.”

South Georgia and North Florida grow the bulk of the nation's pecans. 

The damage at Cohen's orchard isn’t unique.

Farmers across South Georgia have been hit hard, which means prices are likely to rise.

"I mean, half the crop gone, it’s got to affect the price some," Cohen said.

Cotton and peanuts were also hit hard. 

“This is the worst thing that anybody’s ever seen in South Georgia and North Florida," said Tommy Dollar, with Dollar Family Farms.

The damage brought both the president and vice president to South Georgia to listen.

“You can see the importance of this when you see the president, vice president, secretary of agriculture come to this part of the world," Dollar said.

Despite the nuts on the ground being fresh, they can't be harvested.

“We can’t, because there’s so much debris in here. You can’t get them," Cohen said. "It costs you more to clean up than the crops on the ground (would be worth)."

The question for growers is whether pecans, cotton, corn and peanuts remain a viable business. It’s a question that won’t be answered for days or even months.

Most farmers have crop damage insurance, which will cover much of this year's losses, but there’s no help for the downed trees, which take 10 years or more to break even.