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|Gustav deals farmers devastating blow|
No one knows yet how much the damage to crops throughout Franklin Parish will run, but one thing is certain: Gustav dealt a major blow to agriculture last week.
The Macon Ridge Research Station registered more than 15 inches of rain to already saturated fields from Tuesday morning to Wednesday morning.
That meant widespread flooding of crops and homes throughout the parish.
LSU AgCenter's Carol Pinnell-Alison said preliminary estimates show as much as 30 percent crop loss.
"It's just kind of iffy," said Pinnell-Alison. "We really don't know. Some producers have considerable loss -- especially in areas where the fields went under water."
Every major crop has seen some kind of impact, Pinnell-Alison said, with none of the crops produced in Franklin being spared.
Sweet potato fields - some of which were close to harvest - flooded, soaking the crops and making it impossible to get into the field to dig the crops.
Even pecan orchards took a hit, Pinnell-Alison said.
One 640-acre orchard was completely flooded. The producer was lucky, Pinnell-Alison said.
"He didn't lose trees, but he lost limbs," Pinnell-Alison said. "And all that debris has to be picked up."
Franklin corn seemed to have continued its resilient streak, because as much as 70 percent of that crop had been removed from fields. However, for the remaining 30 percent, a lot will depend on how much of it blew over and if producers will be able to lift those crops blown over off the ground.
One crop that took a major beating: cotton.
USDA's Brett Burns said all of the parish's cotton will feel the scars of Gustav.
"All our cotton was affected for sure," said Burns, who works in the Farm Services Administration. "We had 23,000 acres planted and none of it was harvested."
Though all of those acres will see quality issues, some growers will have a much worse year.
"We'll probably have close to 15 percent of acres that won't be harvested because the water went over it," Burns said.
Once the bolls are submerged, the chances of producing a harvestable crop are virtually zero, Burns said.
Burns said his office has made requests for funding to the Emergency Conservation Program of the USDA. If that request is approved, Burns said farmers will be able to recoup some of their losses on infrastructure damage and cleanup.
"We're encouraging people to come in and make application, even though we don't have approval yet," Burns said.
According to Burns, the ECP will pay a 75 percent match on all infrastructure and cleanup costs above $1,000 - so long as all aspects of the farm were insured.
There is a window, Burns said, in the current farm bill that will allow producers to buy in if they have uninsured portions of their farms.
However, the Sept. 16 deadline for that buy-in is rapidly approaching, Burns said.
Teams from the state Dept. of Agriculture, the USDA, FEMA and a host of other government agencies are combing the region to establish and document damages.
However, it could be months before the full scope of the destruction is assessed.
"These crops are so expensive out there now," Burns said. "It's just impossible to say yet."