News / USA

Mississippi Flooding Harms Agriculture in Several US States

A worker from ABL Fabricators, L.L.C. walks along a temporary levee system set up along the Bayou Boeuf waterway in Amelia, Louisiana, May 17, 2011
A worker from ABL Fabricators, L.L.C. walks along a temporary levee system set up along the Bayou Boeuf waterway in Amelia, Louisiana, May 17, 2011

Multimedia

Audio
Greg Flakus

Flooding along the Mississippi River has ruined crops, damaged farmland and delayed barge traffic in parts of the southern United States.  Officials say diversion of some of the water through spillways in Louisiana, though, eventually will ease the flow and help speed the return to normalcy. Closings of some sections of the river are considered only temporary.

The U.S. Coast Guard has shut some small stretches of the Mississippi River to barge traffic in recent days and has allowed only one barge at a time to pass through the stretch of river near Vidalia, Louisiana, where levees are close to being topped. The passage of the barges produces a wake that can cause water to splash over the levees, making local residents anxious about their property.

The temporary measures, however, have not had a significant effect on barge traffic or on ship operations farther downriver. At the Port of Louisiana, north of New Orleans, ships loaded with grain have come downstream from farm areas in the Midwest and nearby southern states for international delivery. Much of America's grain harvest will come down the river in the coming months after the flood waters subside.

The Port of New Orleans has had few disruptions to its operations, according to spokesman Chris Bonura.

“We are continuing to handle international commerce on the lower Mississippi River," said Bonura. "The ships are coming in from all foreign ports. We are handling that cargo. Our ability to distribute that cargo inland has been somewhat diminished by the lack of barge traffic through the Vidalia area. But we expect in that area, and possibly in other areas along the Mississippi River, we could see these intermittent closures.”

Bonura says that unless there is a closure of a week or more, he does not expect any significant impact on the ports or river barge traffic, which not only brings grain down the Mississippi, but also carries fertilizer, chemicals and other products upstream.

Randy Ouzts with Horizon Ag, a seed technology company in Memphis, Tennessee, said high water in his area has prevented the loading or unloading of barges.

“The issue we are having at the moment is wheat delivery, and also fertilizer and fuel deliveries," said Ouzts. "And the problem is loading.  The facilities were not built to accommodate this much water.”

Ouzts said he has never seen flooding as bad as this year's, and that even farmers with fields in relatively high areas are suffering crop losses as a result.

“We lose acres to flooding every year, but it is always a situation where the water will go down in time for us to plant. And people sometimes have to use alternative means to get the crop in, like aerial seeding. But this is unprecedented because of the amount of water that is backed up and out over areas that normally do not flood,” he said.

Ouzts said farmers are seeking government assistance to help them get through this year's disaster and come back even stronger next year. “There are meetings going on right now with growers who were unable to plant or who have lost crops. If there is federal funding, it is never enough, but it is better than nothing.”

The flooding has been especially frustrating for farmers because prices for grain are relatively high this year, and many of them had good crops almost ready for harvest when the flood waters ruined them. Although flooding along the southern Mississippi River is a natural event, caused by snow melt and heavy rains in the north, farmers in the Achafalaya basin of Louisiana are losing many of their crops to a deliberate flood. It's a result of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers opening floodgates at the Morganza spillway in recent days to alleviate water flow on the lower Mississippi that could devastate the cities of Baton Rouge and New Orleans, and damage important infrastructure for oil, gas and shipping.

Marty Frey and his three brothers farm some 2,400 hectares in southern Louisiana. They now have about 260 hectares underwater, not far from where the floodgates were opened. But because they had insurance and were able to harvest some of their crops before the spillway was opened, Frey is optimistic they will avoid catastrophe. In a telephone interview, though, Frey said he is concerned about the rising water inundating his home.

"I am actually sitting on top of the levee now, looking at the water flowing by. And as hard as it is to see it, it is much easier to deal with than to have it inside my house. All four of us live right in the area, the levee is not [even] 100 yards [i.e., about 92 meters] in front of my house and the Mississippi levee is about two miles [i.e., 3.2 kilometers] east of my home. So the failure of one of those could be devastating, absolutely devastating."

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which built the spillway and levee systems decades ago to help control floods along the Mississippi River, often is criticized when it deliberately floods areas like the Achafalaya basin.

But Frey says people who farm here knew the risks when they bought land and that they are thankful for the flood-control system that includes the Morganza spillway.

“It is phenomenal. This structure was built in the 1950s with the foresight of saying we are going to have to be able to relieve this water.  And levees were built in the '50s," he said. "I mean, yes, everybody can question day-to-day decisions that they make, but we would not be able to farm and be as successful as we are without what the Corps has done.”

The Freys grow rice and harvest crawfish from ponds on their properties. Crawfish is a freshwater crustacean that is an essential part of Louisiana cuisine. The spillway is a good place for rice and crawfish, and Marty Frey said that if it floods only once every 30 years or so, he believes it is well worth continuing to work there. The last time the spillway was opened was in 1973.

You May Like

Ebola Death Toll Nears 5,000 as Virus Advances

West Africa bears heaviest burden; Mali toddler’s death raises new fears More

Jordan’s Battle With Islamic State Militants Carries Domestic Risks

Despite Western concerns that IS militants are preparing a Jordanian offensive, analysts call the kingdom's solid intel a strong deterrent More

Asian-Americans Assume Office in Record Numbers

Steadily deepening engagement in local politics pays off for politicians like Chinese-American Judy Chu More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Comanche Chief Quanah Parker’s Century-Old House Falling Apart

One of the most fascinating people in U.S. history was Quanah Parker, the last chief of the American Indian tribe, the Comanche. He was the son of a Comanche warrior and a white woman who had been captured by the Indians. Parker was a fierce warrior until 1875 when he led his people to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and took on a new, peaceful life. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Cache, Oklahoma, Quanah’s image remains strong among his people, but part of his heritage is in danger of disappearing.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid