Clements: Following Hurricane Irma, Hurricane Maria doubled down the destruction on Puerto Rican agriculture. The recovery effort will take years for many farmers. Puerto Rico Farm Bureau President Hector Cordero says crops throughout the island are a complete loss.
Cordero: In general, we lost almost 100 percent of our agriculture. All crops, plantains, bananas, papaya, coffee, all are a loss.
Clements: Dairy represents the biggest sector of agriculture in Puerto Rico. Cordero, a dairy farmer himself, says dairy farmers are having trouble accessing their farms and getting their milk to processors. Currently, the industry is operating at a production level of about 50 percent.
Cordero: The biggest problem our dairy farmers have is the access to the farm and it’s impossible for the trucks from the dairy processors to get to the farmers. The other problem we have is we need access for the feed. We have three feed mills. They have the grain inventory but they don’t have the access to energy so they can’t produce creep for the animals.
Clements: He speculates that parts of rural Puerto Rico may be without electricity for up to a year as damages to power lines are repaired. While FEMA is helping the people of Puerto Rico, he says there needs to be more support for Puerto Rico agriculture.
Cordero: We need an action from Congress and from the USDA. We need people from USDA. The amount of employees that the USDA has in Puerto Rico is too small for the amount of necessity that we have in this moment.
Clements: Micheal Clements, Washington.