The USDA released its preliminary report on hurricane- and drought-related losses in agriculture production Monday -- putting a nearly $900 million price tag on the losses caused by Hurricane Katrina and $1.3 billion in corn and soybeans lost to drought.

"Given the severity of the hurricane, the agricultural losses could have been much greater," said Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns. "With that said, there is a long road ahead for many of our producers who face infrastructure and long-term losses not accounted for in this assessment. USDA is committed to supporting producers throughout long and short term recovery."

Hurricane-force winds missed major crop production areas in the Mid-South. Substantial portions of rice, soybeans and corn production in hurricane-affected states were harvested prior to landfall of Hurricane Katrina, also limiting production losses. Much of the crop losses are attributable to lost horticultural production in Florida and along the Gulf Coast.

Although corn, rice and soybean losses appear to be modest, the assessment report acknowledges that producers will face higher costs harvesting the blown-over crops, which will require more time and high-cost fuel to harvest.

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