River waters creeping into Anna’s Bottom

Published 12:36 am Monday, May 18, 2009

NATCHEZ — When Ross McGehee looked across his soybean field in Anna’s Bottom, he saw a thing of beauty.

“I told somebody two weeks ago when I planted this crop something is going to happen,” McGehee said. “The rows are too straight and the stand is too perfect. It’s magazine pretty.”

The something that went wrong was the Mississippi River — it didn’t stay in its banks.

Anna’s Bottom flooded during the 2008 high water event, but at the beginning of spring planting this year the river wasn’t expected to rise to where it has.

“I quit last year saying, “What else can happen?” McGehee said.

Friday he spent the day building up a levee to save a field, but McGehee said he knows he will lose half of the crop.

“We are forced to try to maintain the crop that we have down to where we expect the water to be,” he said. “We pretty well know where the water is going to be at each river stage.”

McGehee isn’t alone in his work to save what he can in Anna’s Bottom.

“The water is taking crops every day,” farmer Mike Guedon said.

Guedon and a neighbor spent the end of the week trying to harvest as much wheat as they could before the river claimed it and Sunday’s rain made it too wet to harvest.

“The neighbors have a levee, but they think the river is going to breach the levee and get part of their (wheat crop),” Guedon said. “We can’t cut it fast enough, so we are just trying to cut it far enough to get it up the hill where the water won’t reach it.”

The corn and cotton that is planted in the bottom isn’t mature enough to save, though.

“We will save what we can and understand that’s a hazard of farming,” McGehee said.

But the loss of half a field doesn’t mean the year has to be lost.

“We have a $70 an acre investment that we were projecting a $100 net profit for those acres just going down the river to Baton Rouge,” McGehee said. “But last year after the water went down we planted a bean crop. We can still make a crop if the water gets down in time.

“We are just going to have to suck up the loss of having to replant.”

The river is expected to stand at 51.8 feet this morning.