Agriculture losses from Isaac depend on September weather

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LSU AgCenter specialists are in the process of collecting information about the damage to agricultural commodities across the state as a result of Hurricane Isaac. But to a large extent, the actual dollar losses will depend on weather conditions over the next few weeks.

Kurt Guidry, AgCenter economist, puts a rough figure of about $92 million so far in crop yield losses from Isaac, adding that he has no numbers yet on losses in the livestock industry. His estimate includes sugarcane, rice, corn, cotton, sweet potatoes, grain sorghum and pecans.

“That only includes estimates on yield losses – not increased production costs or quality damage,” Guidry said.

Guidry will continue to gather information from assessments being conducted statewide by county agents and commodity production specialists.

“This ongoing effort could lead to additional impacts being identified for these commodities as well as other commodities,” he said.

He said if rain continues, many farmers will likely experience delayed harvest, increased harvest costs and increased quality losses for their crops. But dry weather with some sunshine would help limit some of the losses producers may face, especially with sugarcane.

Kenneth Gravois, AgCenter sugarcane specialist, said dry weather and sunshine can help sugarcane blown over by fierce winds right itself and recover.

“The true extent of any sugarcane loss won’t be known until harvest,” he said, adding that maturity will be delayed, and the cost of harvest and planting will be increased.

So far, there appear to be no losses in the poultry industry, which is Louisiana’s largest animal industry. Assessment of the beef cattle business is continuing.

“Based on the path of the storm, it would appear that the most significant impacts to the cattle industry will be confined to the southeastern portion of the state,” Guidry said.

Dairy farmers had to deal with some isolated cases of fences being damaged, said Ronnie Bardwell, extension dairy agent at the Southeast Research Station in Franklinton. He said there may be some temporary decline in production because of cow stress.

After natural disasters, such as hurricanes, LSU AgCenter economists put together as quickly as possible numbers for losses, which are then used by farmers, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and other agencies. AgCenter commodity specialists gather information from farmers and extension agents in the affected parishes.

Preliminary estimates show that the highest percentage loss from Isaac is to sweet potatoes at about 15 percent.

“We could see 15 percent losses in a few areas that received heavy rains and held water,” said Tara Smith, AgCenter sweet potato specialist, adding that most sweet potato growing-areas received less than 4 inches of rain.

Guidry said the average statewide loss to pecan production could be about 12 percent while he estimated it to be about 10 percent for cotton.

Average statewide yield losses were estimated at less than 5 percent for sugarcane, 3.5 percent for soybeans, and less than 1 percent for other crops.

“Fortunately for commodities such as corn, grain sorghum and rice, the majority of those crops were harvested prior to the storm,” Guidry said. “While those acres not harvested have experienced yield impacts, the impact to statewide production levels is expected to be limited.”


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