Effect on farmers may be devastating

Published 12:03 am Monday, May 9, 2011

Emily Lane | The Natchez Democrat — Water from the Mississippi River is already filling farmlands in south Concordia Parish and north Adams County. Standing floodwater for weeks on end could destroy this year’s farming season.

VIDALIA — The threat of a 64-foot crest on the Mississippi River has residents all over Concordia Parish worried, but none are more worried than the parish’s farmers.

With approximately 100 farmers working on 190,000 acres of farmland in Concordia, the threat of a levee breaking and flooding area crops would be a huge hit to the parish, LSU AgCenter’s Concordia Parish County Agent Glen Daniels said.

“It would be a disaster with a capital ‘D’,” he said. “We would lose everything.”

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Concordia Parish Police Jury President Melvin Ferrington said a break in the levees could put up to approximately 10 feet of water throughout the parish.

“It will take everything in the parish, farmland, businesses and houses would all be gone, ” he said. “This is just one of those things that we are hoping doesn’t happen.”

Daniels said it would be even more devastating this year because of the great success farmers have been seeing.

“This has been the best start to a year I have seen since I took over as county agent,” he said.

Daniels also said farmers have completed planting many of the crops in the area, and a flood would wipe out all of their work.

“You want to talk about a disaster? This would be one,” he said. “I am just praying and hoping that the levee system holds.”

Daniels said any amount of standing water is damaging to crops, and salvaging crops that have been completely submerged is impossible.

“Anytime you have steady water going over a crop it is going to ruin it,” he said. “If the water has any time to sit on top of them, they are ruined.”

Ferrington said the 64-foot river level is projected to have a long crest, and that a break in the levee would leave water in the parish longer.

“It is supposed to stay at 64 for a couple of days and then drop a little,” he said. “After that initial drop it is projected at sitting at that same level for around a month.”

Daniels said such a large amount of water sitting on the farmland would cause damage that would take some time to fix.

“Farmers would have to wait a while before they could get back out there and use the land,” he said. “Plus the river has a lot of different particles and minerals in it that could seep into the land and cause problems.”

Ferrington said while a break in the levee system would cause tremendous damage, parish officials still have everything under control.

“We are preparing for the worst and hoping for the best,” he said. “We feel the levees will hold, and we are confident everything should go off without a problem.”