Officials: Hurricane Barry farm damage fairly local

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CROWLEY, La. (AP) — Some Louisiana farmers say they’ve never seen storm damage worse than Hurricane Barry left behind, but the LSU AgCenter says that statewide crop damage was minimal.

AgCenter and federal Farm Service Agency workers are checking crop damage, and it could be a few weeks before assessments are complete, state Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain said in a news release Thursday.

“While the damage was not widespread across the state, we have farmers who were greatly impacted,” Strain said. He said he has been talking with U.S. Department of Agriculture officials and Gov. John Bel Edwards about whether to declare an agriculture disaster.

The AgCenter’s rice, soybean and corn specialists also said that severe damage was local,

Farmer Jeffrey Sylvester of Whiteville in St. Landry Parish told the AgCenter he had 700 acres of soybeans submerged, and his rice crop, which was in the heading stage, is probably lost.

“I’m seeing more water over my crops than I’ve ever seen, and it’s still rising,” he said Tuesday.

Ricihard Fontenot of the Evangeline Parish community of Vidrine said water didn’t cover his rice, but he could water-ski in his soybean fields after 9 to 20 inches of rain in his area July 14.

“It just came down our alley and didn’t let up,” he said.

Overall, overcast weather after Barry helped plants recover, Evangeline Parish county agent Todd Fontenot said.

Most of Avoyelles Parish got 7 to 11 inches of rain, with 19 inches in Cottonport, said parish agent Justin Dufour.

He said much of the corn crop was close to harvest and flooding would be a problem if drainage was slow.

Avoyelles Parish farmer Scott Williams said only isolated parts of his corn were pushed down to the ground but soybeans flooded. He said the area got about 3 inches of rain on July 13 and 5 to 6 the next day. “It was like an ocean,” he said.

Boyd Padgett, LSU AgCenter state soybean specialist, said most of the state’s soybeans appeared to be doing well after the storm, except in isolated areas of flooding.

Beans covered by water for very long wouldn’t do well, and diseases develop in humid, wet stands.

County agent Andrew Granger said 1,000 to 1,500 acres of flowering rice was submerged in the Henry and Intracoastal City areas of Vermilion Parish.

He said about 3,000 to 4,000 acres of sugarcane were left with standing water, but flooded sugarcane did well after hurricanes Rita and Ike. Some cattle were stranded by the storm, he said, so some cattle owners are trying to get their herds to higher ground while others are shuttling hay.

“It could have been a whole lot worse,” Granger said.

Charles Payne said storm surge the evening of July 13 covered all 600 acres of rice at Live Oak Plantation south of Henry and stranded about 300 cows with calves on high ground. But at least this was fresh water, rather than the salt water surge from previous storms.

“That’s the only reason our cattle are going to make it,” he said.

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