Florida Dairy Industry Prepares for Hurricane Irma

Joel Hastings

Huricane Irma“We’re battening down the hatches,” says dairyman Don Bennink speaking from his North Florida Holsteins, near Bell. He reports checking on his generators and their fuel supplies preparing for power outages and lining up some milk tanker capacity in case milk can’t be hauled off the dairy.

He said while he’s not in a flood prone area, he recalled the hurricanes of 2004 when rainfall totaled over 40 inches in a period of days, cutting off the dairy in most every direction.

He’s working with his employees to safeguard them and their families. He also has 10 international student trainees, most of whom have not experienced storms like this. He says he’s 100 miles from Florida’s East Coast and like many Floridians, he’s hoping Irma will track in the Atlantic, knowing that is unlikely.

It’s wait and see until sometime Monday morning, he said.

Meanwhile, farther south towards Miami, Dairy Extension Agent Coleen Larson was just coming from a county emergency planning meeting when she spoke on the phone. She said northbound traffic is very heavy and many gas stations are running out of fuel. While her town of Okeechobee on the north side of the lake of the same name is not being evacuated, but it’s the transient traffic that make it hard for the locals to prepare.

Also the wife of a dairy farm manager, she said working with dairy employees and families is a priority along with checking generators and securing adequate fuel supplies. She too recounted the storms of 2004, Francis and Jeanne, that kept some without power for more than two weeks.