Just a few weeks ago, Louisiana residents were wondering how the rising waters of the Mississippi River might affect many of the state’s property owners, including its farmers. Although the numbers are coming in, initial estimates suggest flooding affected about 40,000 to 50,000 acres of farmland along the Mississippi River and the Morganza Spillway, according to LSU Agricultural Center Chancellor Bill Richardson. Some farms lost as many as 1,000 acres of crops in the flooding. The hardest-hit area was in East Carroll Parish, which had 12,000 to 15,000 acres flooded. Farmers who had crop insurance will recover some losses, depending on their level of coverage.
But the ongoing drought and the heat, relieved only slightly by recent rains, are turning out to be more of a problem for Louisiana farmers than the flood, Richardson told a recent meeting of Advocate reporters and editors.
“The northern part of the state, particularly the northwestern part of the state, is hurting,” Richardson said. The expense of extra irrigation is raising the production costs, which already were taking a hit from the high cost of fuel. Drought stress is evident on soybean plants across the state, said Richardson. Because most of the beans are grown without irrigation, there will be major yield losses unless there is rain.
The drought also is limiting the amount of pasture available for grazing, a big impact on Louisiana’s cattle farmers. Some producers might be forced to sell cattle because they cannot feed them, Richardson said.
Amidst this bad news, Richardson pointed to commodity prices as a big plus. High commodity prices for soybeans, corn, cotton and sugar should help farmers pull through what is shaping up to be a stressful season for Louisiana agriculture.
This summer has been a reminder that farming, perhaps more than most business enterprises, is very much a roll of the dice.