Autumn Deluge Destroys More Than $1 Billion Of Delta Crops

Weeks of almost-continuous, torrential rains have destroyed over a billion dollars worth of what was originally expected to be a bumper fall crop in the U.S. Delta.

ARKANSAS: “It’s a serious problem right now. At this stage, yield/quality losses for Arkansas ‘ major row crops could easily exceed $650 million,” said Arkansas Farm Bureau President Randy Veach Thursday.

The state has received measurable rainfall every day for the past seven consecutive weeks, preventing fields from drying out, and overripe crops from being harvested. Arkansas farmers still have 85% of their cotton, 61% of all soybeans, 10% of their corn and 5% of all grain sorghum remaining to harvest; at a time when picking is usually of most commodities is already complete.

“We’re going to try to do as much as we can as quickly as we can, but assessing the damage—and what the damage is— does require some time,” said Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D., Ark.), chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee. “I wouldn’t be surprised if all 75 counties in this state are declared a disaster,” thus making producers eligible for U.S. Department of Agriculture emergency loans.

On average, all areas of Arkansas have received 17 inches more rain than normal during 2009. Even with two months left to go, 2009 is already the 11th-wettest year on record in Little Rock , which has been flooded with 62.57 inches of rain. That total will only increase, as the National Weather Service was predicting another 2 of rain for portions of Arkansas, by nightfall Friday.

MISSISSIPPI: Non-stop rains have also taken $371 million from the pockets of Mississippi producers this autumn, according to calculations made this week by the Mississippi State University .

“Total losses for row crops are expected to be around 23% of the potential value of the crop,” said MSU agricultural economist John Michael Riley. With nearly 40% of all fields still standing, soybeans have suffered the worst hit in cash-value hit, losing 30.2% of their expected value, or $212 million in all.

“Half of the crop left in the field is very poor, to possibly a complete loss,” said MSU extension soybean specialist Trey Koger. “Damage estimates for the portion of the soybean crop we last harvested nearly two weeks ago, averaged 8%-15%. Final damage to the state’s soybean crop may reach levels as high as 50%.”

Earlier this month the USDA forecast the Mississippi fall grain harvest at 92.3 million bushels of corn, nearly 83.5 million bushels of soybeans, 16.184 million hundredweight of rice, and 888,000 bushels of sorghum. Economic losses have been measured at $91 million for cotton/cottonseed, representing about 47% of that crop’s original prospective value.

“Environmental conditions in 2009 have proven to be the most difficult that many growers have ever experienced,” said Darrin Dodds, MSU cotton specialist.

Estimates are that half the state’s sweet potato harvest is ruined, costing growers $34.6 million in lost revenue. Rice is taking a much lighter hit—of 8% in yield—but this is expected to add up to $25.7 million in lost value. Corn losses are expected to reach $12.3 million, on a 15% yield loss. No acres of peanuts are forecast to be abandoned, but rain-related quality/yield losses are anticipated at 20%, or $4.7 million. Grain sorghum is expected to take the largest percentage loss of Mississippi ‘s major grain crops, of 41.9%.

“About 50% was harvested prior to mid-September. The remaining crop will likely be abandoned or salvaged due to excessive kernel sprouting,” said MSU grains specialist Erick Larson, who said sprout has also been seen in corn.

OVERVIEW: The 2009 Delta deluge is forecast to have a significant impact on the U.S. cash grain market. Benson Quinn Commodities said one private crop firm has already trimmed its outlook to 12.840 billion bushels of corn and 3.21 billion bushels of soy. The latest USDA forecast— issued October 9—placed national production at 13.018 billion bushels of corn and 3.25 billion bushels of soybeans, the largest soybean crop in US history.

“There are nearly 200 million bushels of un-harvested soybeans in the Delta, a number that is nearly equal to our ending stocks estimate,” said Iowa commodity trade advisor Karl Setzer. “If even half of these soybeans are lost, it will greatly change market dynamics.”

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