farming

Despite uncertainty surrounding federal farm legislation, agricultural economists are optimistic about the market outlook for rice and soybeans with higher prices and more varieties expected.

The American Press reports that was the message given to more than 50 Southwest Louisiana rice and soybean growers attending an agriculture forum last week in Welsh, La.

Heavy rains in southwest Louisiana are flooding land and keeping some farmers out of the fields.

Calcasieu Parish County Agent Jimmy Meaux tells The American Press that although sugar cane harvesting is through in most areas, rice and soybean farmers are being kept from preparing their fields for the planting season.

Most farmers spend January and February getting fields in shape for spring planting, which can begin as early as March, he said.

As rain followed rain in south Louisiana, the president of the Louisiana Crawfish Farmers Association saw a good chunk of his crop swim over the levees around his ponds while fish swam in to feast on those remaining.

David Savoy of Church Point says rains since last week have overtopped the levees in about 35 percent of his 1,700 acres of ponds. But he says those are his most low-lying ponds, which also tend to be the most productive.

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.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says Louisiana's harvests this year include record yields for at least five crops — corn, soybeans, cotton, grain sorghum and rice. Sugarcane is still being harvested, but could be near a record.

Economist Kurt Guidry says reasons include more irrigation, better crop varieties and luck with the weather.

Rice expert John Saichuk cautions that a rice disease called blast may have cut the harvest below the federal estimate of 6,500 pounds per acre. And AgCenter surveys put the record yield at last year's 6,717 pounds per acre.

Eve Abrams / WWNO

When Hurricane Isaac blew through Louisiana, it caused an estimated $100 million worth of losses in agriculture. About 40% of the state’s citrus crop was destroyed, and in Plaquemines Parish, where most of our citrus comes from, nearly half the citrus acres were flooded.

Farmers in the worst hit areas are cleaning up. Meanwhile, the luckier farmers worry about the next time. All of them told Eve Abrams the future of Louisiana’s commercial citrus industry does not look good.

Hurricane Isaac's winds paired with recent rains made a rough start for this year's sugar-cane grinding season. But industry officials are optimistic that weather will improve this month, helping the process along.

Jim Simon, general manager of the American Sugar Cane League, tells The Courier several mills started grinding last week. The remaining mills are scheduled to begin work this week.

Simon says the sugar cane industry has an annual impact of about $1.1 billion in Louisiana.

The LSU AgCenter estimates Hurricane Isaac has cut Louisiana's pecan harvest by 15 percent.

Charlie Graham, professor for fruit and nut crops, says that would bring the total to just over 11 million pounds — down from pre-storm estimates of 13 million to 13.5 million pounds. It still would be up from last year's 9 million pounds.

Graham says prices are likely to be similar to 2011 levels.

Last November, farm prices ran from $1.25 to $3.50 a pound, with most varieties starting above $2.

The headlines on the press releases that started showing up yesterday, here at The Salt certainly got our attention. Just one sample: "BREAKING NEWS: New Study Links Genetically Engineered Food to Tumors."

Much of Louisiana's citrus crop is rotting on the ground.

Navel oranges, satsumas, grapefruits — little was spared as Hurricane Isaac roared across southeast Louisiana, knocking fruit off tree limbs and flooding orchards in Plaquemines Parish just a month away from fall harvest.

The Saxon Becnel and Sons Citrus Nursery in Belle Chasse was spared flooding but lost about 90 percent of its oranges and half of its satsuma crop from two days of high winds that hovered over the region.

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