NEW ORLEANS — The agricultural loss from the March flooding across Louisiana could top $15 million, according to an economist with the LSU AgCenter.
Kurt Guidry said the figures are preliminary because reports are coming in daily from farmers and producers.
Guidry said up to 40,000 acres of corn were covered by the high water.
“The corn losses occurred across north Louisiana and into the Mississippi Delta region,” Guidry said. The total loss of corn is estimated between $3 and $4 million, he said.
Farmers in north Louisiana, where the majority of the state’s corn crop is grown, have a couple of weeks left in the optimum planting window, according to AgCenter recommendations. If dry weather takes hold, many acres could get planted.
“If the farmers want to replant, they have until the middle of April,” Guidry said.
He said the cost to replant runs $130 to $150 an acre. Many fields remain under water and those will not be replanted, Guidry said.
Earlier in the year, experts were predicting a statewide increase in corn acres. Forecasts had corn at more than 500,000 acres, but the number is trending downward because of the wet conditions.
“We’ve got water in places we’ve never seen it,” said Dustin Morris, a Richland Parish farmer whose corn seed was washed away. Morris said Wednesday he is replanting the 300 acres he lost and about 5,000 acres that hadn’t been planted before the storms. “We’re lucky we only lost 300 acres,” he said.
Another farmer, Chris Johnson of Richland Parish, said he is replanting 1,700 acres.
Louisiana’s annual corn crop is valued at $266 million, according to state agricultural officials.
Based on figures from different parishes, “400 to 500 head of cattle died in the flood,” Guidry said.
Pasture land was also lost and some still remains under water. “This will also cost the cattle producers to provide hay and feed.” Guidry said.
Randall Mallette, the agriculture agent in Natchitoches Parish, said grazing pastures along Interstate 49 and La. Highway 1 remain under water.
Cattle production in Louisiana is valued at $663 million annually.
“We have had two major flood events in north Louisiana, one in late 2015 and in March,” Department of Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Mike Strain said.
“The Red River has remained high and the bayous and streams that feed into the Red can’t drain and are backing up into the fields,” Strain said. “I see drainage becoming a much bigger problem for agriculture in the years to come.”
With the price of commodities at about break even or upside down like in corn, Strain said, “the farmers and producers can’t take a $15 million loss.”
“Most can’t afford to replant, so that crop is lost for the year,” Strain said.