Josh Sosland
From an economic perspective, the disruptive force of the current hurricane season came sharply into focus late last week when the Department of Labor announced the nation’s workforce contracted by 33,000 in September. The estimate compared with an increase of 80,000 anticipated ahead of the report and ended the longest stretch ever of job growth. Economists said the decline was driven by the effects of Hurricane Harvey beginning in late August and Irma in early September.

The storms’ impact was reflected in grain-based foods operations as well, but it is the industry’s rapid response that stands out in the aftermath of the two hurricanes in addition to Maria, which ravaged Puerto Rico on Sept. 20. While Gulf wheat inspections were at a standstill at the Gulf the week ended Aug. 31, inspections returned to pre-storm levels a week later, a testament to “the resilience of the regional transportation system,” according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. One rail carrier said that 1,750 miles of track were out of service at the height of the storm.

In Puerto Rico, Molinos de Puerto Rico (Ardent Mills) was back in operations only a few days after Maria even though the mill sustained damage repairs and 90% of the island was still without power and 50% was without water two weeks later. Recovery work will stretch long into the future but will be helped by the impressive manner in which grain-based foods has responded to these disasters.