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
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

Open Source Seeds Hit the Market, Raise Awareness

First open source seeds include 29 new varieties of broccoli, celery, kale, quinoa and other vegetables and grains 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.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid