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|Farmers fight for recovery|
More than six weeks after Hurricane Gustav pounded Franklin Parish, farmers are still looking for some form of government assistance to help defray the costs of the storm.
Agriculture consultant Buckshot Sims said that, without assistance, some area producers will not recover.
"If we don't get some help, we're going to lose some farmers," said Sims, who also works for Helena Chemical Company. "As far as the cotton goes, we're going to pick fifty percent of what we expected."
Gov. Bobby Jindal has lobbied Congress and the USDA for additional farm aid, but so far his efforts have come up dry.
Earlier this week, Jindal did announce he will make portions of the state's Community Development Block Grant monies available to farmers, but Jindal stressed this is a temporary fix to a long term problem.
Sims said cotton and soybean producers were hit hard by the rains because the majority of those crops were still in the fields.
"Probably the cotton was hit harder than the soybeans because it's a higher input crop," Sims said.
Though many area producers took out crop insurance, most of them took out the minimum required and did not purchase buy-up insurance — where insurance companies guarantee a certain yield.
"Some people who would have bought insurance didn't buy it because they didn't know enough about what it would be yet," Sims said.
That means a lot of area producers are left holding the bag, Sims said.
Another major factor impacting the potential recovery is a question of whether or not planting wheat will be profitable.
Commodities futures have taken a major hit during the economic crisis and, though gasoline and petroleum prices have fallen, input costs such as fertilizer and nitrogen prices are still higher than normal.
Sims said that's because farm supply companies have to stock up for the spring beginning in the summer. This year, that means the suppliers were purchasing product at the highest costs.
Input prices have come down slightly, but not enough to make a difference, Sims said.
"You'll see some small decreases, but not a large one," Sims said. "And we need a large decrease in input costs."
High input costs mean area producers are thinking twice about planting wheat, the region's most common fall crop.
LSU AgCenter's Carol Pinnell-Alison said the window for wheat planting is fast approaching, but producers are in a holding pattern.
"I think some of them have the ground ready but aren't going to put seeds in the ground until we get a little bit of rain," Pinnell-Alison said.
Sims offered another take on the wheat planting season.
"We had a lot of wheat come in that they were going to plant, but they backed out because of the input costs on the wheat," Sims said.