Folks in Louisiana are not amazed that they are enduring another natural disaster. They are becoming a common occurrence for the state. What has surprised them is that they can be enduring one of the worst droughts in their history, but yet be dealing with the worst flood in 75 years, too.
That is a La Nina for you. The Ohio River Valley has received 500 percent of normal rainfall and the runoff all ends up flooding the Delta region and Louisiana despite not getting hardly a drop of the rain itself.
I thought that 1993 was the big flood when Iowa became another Great Lake but it was centered that year on the Northern and Western Corn Belt so that flooding was worse in the upper Mississippi region.
This time the deluged region impacted was the Eastern Corn Belt on up the Ohio River Valley clear to Canada, so the Mississippi flooding is worse further south than in 1993. There is no real change evident yet in the weather pattern.
The SOI index is declining but the La Nina is not gone yet. Odds are that it will last through June and it takes 30 days for the weather to change after the SOI index neutralizes.
Other similar La Nina events have seen hot dry summers follow cold wet springs. The transition will give momentary relief. We could get average temps and rainfall out of the two extremes without conditions ever being average. Estimates run as high as 4 million acres of cropland being under water from flooding with dubious prospects of growing a crop this year.
Just to the Southwest of the deluges and floods, the Southern Plains have been experiencing exceptional drought. The wheat crop has been devastated, cows produce little puffs of dust when they walk the pasture and dry land cotton will be planted in the dust before insurance deadlines only so they can quality for crop insurance payments.
On one side of the river, fields intended to go to cotton are under water along with whatever other crops they have planted before the flood. On the west side of the river they are bone dry so that dry-land crops don’t stand a chance. Nothing will grow without irrigation. So much for conserving the Ogallala.
Farms take second fiddle when it comes to saving property over homes as the choice was made to blow dykes and open floodgates on cropland. It will take two to three weeks before the water goes down and another to dry up to plant anything after they have cleaned up whatever mess the river left them. It has to quit raining in the Mississippi’s Ohio River Valley watershed to end the flooding down river.
Cropland up the Ohio River Valley to Canada may not be under water but soils are too soggy to carry equipment. Winter was slow to leave the NCB and Canada resulting in flooding up north from snow melt and rain with no planting window yet in mid-May.
They planted late last year up north too but temps were warmer so crops grew when planted and we had plenty of length to the growing season. They got lucky. When crops get off to a poor start they are more vulnerable to anything else that comes along.
The La Nina is a problem maker. It will fade, but it is already taking a toll and is not gone yet. While it can rain in Texas and the drought will go away, the floods along the Mississippi are being looked at by environmentalists as an opportunity to take advantage of a crisis that will keep on giving. They don’t want a lot of the land flooded to go back to raising crops. They want to get a permanent wetland reserve out of the floods of 2011.
Those fears were confirmed by National Geographic Daily News. “The destruction of 35 million acres of wetlands – an area the size of Illinois – in the upper Mississippi River basin has increased flood risks to cities and farms downstream. One way to protect against floods has stood the tests of thousands of years – the ecosystem of wetlands and flood plains natural to big rivers. Instead of letting this ecological infrastructure degrade further, U.S. federal and state authorities should work to expand and rebuilt it.
“What is needed is a comprehensive plan to add ecological infrastructure to complement engineering infrastructure – specifically to expand wetlands and re-activate flood plains so as to mitigate future flood risks.”
Following the Great Flood of 1993, the USFWS was quick to move in and begin surveying locations where they could make land purchases. Those lands were not recovered. In many cases, what was once productive farmland has now been allowed to grow up in trees and brush.
It would be very sad to see some of the nation’s most productive soil taken out of production because the federal government failed to help these landowners.”
The next battle that Mississippi Delta farmers face will be to keep their land as farms. Price prospects for crops may have never looked better, but I have warned that you only get paid for bushels or bales produced.
Permanent damage has already been done to crop prospects. USDA won’t forecast it; they will follow it in their statistics like a body count after the battle takes place.
Nothing has happened yet to change prospects for upside targets above $8 for corn and $15 for soybeans in the next leg up.
David Kruse is president of CommStock Investments Inc., author and producer of The CommStock Report, an ag commentary and market analysis available daily by radio and by subscription on DTN/FarmDayta and the Internet.
Please Enter Your Facebook App ID. Required for FB Comments. Click here for FB Comments Settings page