- Associated Press - Saturday, June 13, 2015

NATCHITOCHES, La. (AP) - It will be weeks, perhaps months, before it’s known how much damage the recent flooding from the Red River has done to Louisiana’s agriculture industry.

James Wagley, Natchitoches Parish president for Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation, tells The Town Talk (https://townta.lk/1Ib2RZZ0) thousands and thousands of acres that are underwater in his parish.

“This is by far the worst I’ve ever seen it. Unless you’re 70-something years old, you’ve never seen anything like this,” Wagley said.

“I have probably 4,000 acres underwater,” said John Danley, who owns and leases farmland at Mibermel Plantation north of Natchitoches. “Rice, milo, soybeans, it’s all gone. It will be next spring before I can plant again.”

Commissioner of Agriculture Mike Strain met with dozens of farmers, ranchers and other stakeholders from the agriculture industry to discuss the situation and answer questions at the plantation Friday.

It was a fitting location. All up and down Louisiana Highway 1, land that recently supported crops is covered by water that stretches to the horizon.

“We’re looking at a substantial loss to the wheat crop,” Strain said. “Here, you’re looking at corn, beans, some of this rice is flooded way too deep. This is not like a flash flood that goes up and down. You can survive that. I think you’re going to see a total loss of everything that’s underwater, but you don’t have to be an agronomist to know that.”

Strain also predicted losses among livestock owners from disease and low weight due to stress.

Even after the water recedes, Strain said, the effects will continue to be felt. Rehabilitating the land to support crops and grass again is a process that’s going to take time.

“When land is underwater, you’re losing nutrients that have to be replaced,” Strain said. “Soil is a living entity. Standing water takes soil and makes it clay. Soil grows crops, clay doesn’t.”

Strain stressed the importance of documenting through record keeping and photographs all the expenses farmers and ranchers incur due to the flooding.

In addition to agriculture, industry that uses the river for shipping is being disrupted. John H. Overton Lock and Dam No. 2, which is south of the Alexandria Regional Port, closed to barge traffic Thursday, joining locks to the north near Colfax, Coushatta and Shreveport that had already closed due to high and swift-moving water.

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Information from: Alexandria Daily Town Talk, https://www.thetowntalk.com


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