Ag agencies expect bad news for parish crops

Parishwide damage assessment underway

 Farmers in Avoyelles have already been dealt a harsh blow by a history-making August rainstorm, but the periodic showers since then have made a bad situation worse.

   County Agent Justin Dufour said the LSU AgCenter and other agriculture agencies will be doing a “large and descriptive survey of damages. We will assess the overall damage to crops caused by the flooding.”
   Dufour said the “post-flood weather” has kept farmers and relief efforts off-balance.
   “It has been hit and miss,” he said. “We have had a few dry days, but then we get one inch of rain in 30 minutes and it throws everything off track.”
   Dufour said Avoyelles has had some flooding of crops, but not to the extent in some southern parishes that have had close to 100 percent losses.
   Ella York, county executive director of the federal Farm Service Agency, said a County Emergency Board has been convened to assess the damage.
   “We don’t have any numbers yet, but we will be developing those,” she said. 
   York said anyone with agriculture production-related losses should call the FSA  at (318)253-9235, extension 2.
   “It is pretty severe,” FSA farm loan officer Johnny Borden said.
   “Any milo that has not been harvested is sprouting in its head and is lost,” Borden said. “There are also reports of rice sprouting, which could reduce the quality and even lead to 100 percent loss.”
   Borden said it is too early to tell what effect the heavy rains and recurring showers have had on soybeans.
   “Some of the early varieties that were ready for harvesting when the flood hit sustained a lot of damage,” he said. “Of course, those fields in low areas that were inundated are lost.”
   Borden said the news on the corn crop is brighter, with reports of good yield and quality.
   “It’s just a matter of getting into the field,” he said. “That has delayed some farmers’ harvest.”
   It is still too early to tell on damage to the cotton crop and there has been no reports of damage to the parish’s sugar cane crops.
   “I had a commercial vegetable producer come by here and tell me they lost a lot of their crop due to the heavy rain,” he added.
   Dufour said the current concern in the County Agent’s office is on the possible effect the rain has had on the sweet potato crop.
   “There are some nervous sweet potato growers,” he said. “But they won’t know the extent of the damage until the harvester hits the field.”
   Brian Naquin, general manager of Helena Chemical Company, said farmers have told him that losses could be “significant.” He also pointed out that farmers are still in the assessment phase, trying to determine the losses in terms of acreage and financial impact.
  “Most farmers have been affected by the heavy rains, but they have been affected in different ways,” Naquin said. “Much of the crop is still in the field and the exact losses may not be known until the farmers can get into the field and harvest the crops and calculate their losses.”
   It appears there will be losses of varying degrees in all crops, but rice could take the biggest hit from what he has heard. What little cotton is planted in the parish could be destroyed by the rain and any unharvested milo will suffer in loss of quality. 
   As others noted, early soybeans could see heavy losses because the beans are rotting in the field, unable to be harvested due to almost constant rains since Aug. 13.
   “There is really nothing the farmers can do to save their crops,” Naquin said. “The damage has been done.”
   Bunkie farmer John Earles said his biggest issue with the rain was a delay in planting sugar cane.
  “We have until the end of the month to plant cane  for next year’s crop because when the mills will be open, I need everyone to harvest this year’s cane crop,” Earles said. “I believe I have lost some market value with rice and soybeans, but the amount will not be known for a couple of weeks.”