drought

North Louisiana farmers and timber growers say they're beginning to recover from drought in 2010 and 2011. But The Times of Shreveport reports it will take time to rebuild cattle herds and that trees stressed by the drought could continue to die for another two years.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture declared 36 Louisiana parishes drought disaster areas in 2010. In 2011, seven parishes were named drought disaster areas along with 213 Texas counties.

Erin Krall / WWNO

Low water levels in the upper Mississippi River have not affected operations so far at the Port of New Orleans. Port officials say no traffic restrictions are expected.

Small businesses in 11 Louisiana parishes are now eligible for low-interest federal disaster loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Alfred E. Judd, director of the SBA's Disaster Field Operations Center-West, said in a news release Tuesday that the loans can offset economic losses caused by the drought that began June 19.

The eligible parishes are Morehouse, Richland, Union, West Carroll, Caldwell, Claiborne, East Carroll, Franklin, Lincoln, Madison and Ouachita. Three neighboring counties in Arkansas — Ashley, Chicot and Union — also are eligible.

An 11-mile stretch of the Mississippi River was closed today because of low waters levels.

The AP reports:

"Coast Guard spokesman Ryan Tippets told The Associated Press on Monday that the stretch of river near Greenville, Miss., has been closed intermittently since Aug. 11, when a vessel ran aground.

This summer, I have emptied my garden's rain barrels twice to keep herbs, vegetables and flowers alive during our endless drought. I’ve also witnessed spirited debates between farmers, shoppers, and the occasional know-it-all about global warming.

While my uncle may be a meteorologist, I am simply a casual observer, and what I have noticed is this: Farmers return from their fields with stories of extreme and unfamiliar weather. These patterns affect our food.

Louisiana Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain says the U.S. Department of Agriculture has designated 11 north Louisiana parishes as disaster areas because of drought.

He says he was notified Wednesday that four — Morehouse, Richland, Union and West Carroll — are primary natural disaster areas. The other seven — Caldwell, Claiborne, East Carroll, Franklin, Lincoln, Madison and Ouachita — were named because they're are adjacent to the primary disaster area.

US Army Corps of Engineers

Louisiana has so far avoided disastrous drought conditions declared in nearly half the counties in the United States. But southeast Louisiana is starting to feel the effects of a lower Mississippi River.

With about 55 percent of the continental U.S. suffering from "moderate to extreme drought" conditions the nation is withering under conditions that haven't been this bad since 1956, according to a new report from National Climatic Data Center.

The punishing seven-year drought of the 1950s in Texas brought about the modern era of water planning. But the drought of 2011 was the hottest, driest 12 months on record there.

Though only a handful of towns saw their water sources dry up last summer, it got so bad that cities, industries and farmers began to think the unthinkable: Would they run out of water?

"Between 1950 and 1960," according to NPR's John Burnett, Texas "lost nearly 100,000 farms and ranches," and rural residents who had made up more than a third of the population dwindled to just a quarter of the population.

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