The Early Indications of a Flooded Mississippi

Luckily, soybean farmers know what they’re doing
By Luke Geiver | June 14, 2011

The flooded Mississippi River may be slowly receding, filtering back into its banks, but the damage has already been done. Pictures of soaked out homes and buildings, street signs poking through a wave of water or even distressed farmers looking across their fields covered by three feet of water clearly show the immediate effect of the culmination of heavy moisture that came at a bad time. As Bernie Crowley, vice president for Delta American Fuels, a biodiesel plant with a terminal on the Mississippi river, notes some of the photos out there sensationalize the damage, however, but some minimize it.

The USDA’s Under Secretary Dallas Tonsager has already toured everywhere from Missouri to Louisiana to assess the damage. Joining Tonsager on the tours was Michael Scuse, under secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural services at USDA. “Our hearts go out to all of those affected by the disasters,” Scuse said. “Our first-hand assessments will allow us to identify the unique farm safety net and rural community development needs of the impacted region.

Although it might be too soon to assess the flood’s impact on biodiesel production, Crowley’s attitude towards the flood may be an indication. As a soybean farmer himself, he says the good news is “farmers, especially around here,” have a good understanding of soybean planting requirements. If, he says, “you get seven sunny days, you can get the planting done.” And regardless of when the water fully recedes, the soybean fields will get planted—that, he says, will happen.

“It’s going to be an expensive flood for us but it could’ve been a lot lot worse,” he says, pointing out that a high number of cotton acres will be lost as most cotton growers in the area plant in the low lying areas near the river.

Through the Farm Service Agency at USDA, an emergency loan program is available to help “producers recover from production and physical losses due to natural disasters.” The loans are available as soon as any flooded counties are declared a Presidential or Secretarial Disaster county, according to the USDA.

The water at Crowley’s pier is going down, but reports from the state of Arkansas indicate that more water needs to be released into the river, essentially reflooding the river. Eventually, he says, they will be back in business.

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