“It’s widespread,” County Agent Todd Fontenot said to describe the amount of the damage associated with the flooding.
Ted Buller described the damage as “pretty devastating.” Buller, along with his nephew Brad Fontenot farm 1200 acres of rice and 1100 acres of soybeans in the Pine Point area. “We’re currently trying to plant beans, but it’s still wet. We’re not able to get back to the fields just yet.”
Mamou Mayor Ricky Fontenot heard through word of mouth around town that some of the farmers in the area “have lost all of their crops.”
One Mamou area farmer that sustained damage is Cody Bieber, who farms with his father Larry at Bieber Farms. “We had quite a bit of acres that went under the water, and it’s too early to tell how much damage will be done,” he said. “We had some that stayed under water seven and eight days.”
Todd Fontenot went on to say most of damage associated with the flooding is to the rice fields. “We tried to get an estimate last week, and I guess we came somewhere in the neighborhood of around 15,000 acres of rice that was flooded over when it shouldn’t have been and in most cases at least for a number of days,” he said. “Now there’s still a lot of that area even into the Miller’s Lake area and The Platain that still has water on top of rice.”
“We have a lot of farmers in the Vidrine, Reddell, and Bond area that are still under water currently, and they have rice crops that are underneath that water,” Buller added. “It’s gonna be devastating to a lot of guys once this water recedes.”
Fontenot added, “A lot of it has kinda receded, but there’s still a lot a lot of water covering some rice that shouldn’t be on top of it where it shouldn’t be. So acreage wise that’s getting close to one-third of our acres in the parish, and most already got covered or flooded over where it shouldn’t have been.”
The amount of flooding causes the rice stems to become stressed and pushes farmers back in applying fertilizers and herbicides. “For some of that rice, it was time for herbicide application or fertilizer application, and in some cases if you’re not applying some fertilizer and you get those big rains, you lose some of that fertilizer,” Fontenot said. “Some of it washes out. Some of it goes down to the bottom pretty quick in a flood with rice, but in no way is it good for it.”
“A lot of the rice that’s being affected,” according to Fontenot, “is about midseason already when normally you put the final application of nitrogen, so they’re gonna be delayed even though the water goes down.” He continued, “You want that rice plant to get back strong before you apply that fertilizer so that it can take it. If it’s stressed and weakened, it’s not gonna utilize the fertilizer like it needs to if it’s not already suffering.”
Buller said his soybean plants will not be set back a whole lot but remains anxious of the outcome of his and other farmers’ rice yields. “We don’t know the outcome of what the rice yield is
gonna be with all this water on it because most rice is at a very critical stage in its growing period to not have all this water covering the top of it,” he said.
Fontenot went on to describe the kind of water flowing into the rice fields. “It’s muddy water,” he said. “It’s not clear. It’s not just clear rain water. It’s muddy bayou water and runoff of soil, so that eliminates light.”
Bieber farms between 2100 and 2200 acres of rice, and around 400 or 500 of those acres were flooded. He does not know the long-term effect the flooding will have. “We never experienced it at this stage in the rice to know what it’s gonna do,” he said. “I’ve never experienced this much water at this stage of the rice. I’m sure it will have some yield effect. I don’t know.”
“So we won’t know until we harvest it what exactly the yield loss will be, but there will definitely be a yield loss in the long term effect at this time, but we won’t know until August what’s gonna take place,” added Buller.
While Buller predicts a yield loss, he remains unsure on how the rice prices will be affected. “Arkansas lost a tremendous amount of rice as well, and I think that could possibly maybe make a price swing, but time will tell on that issue.”
Soybeans, according to Fontenot, were not as affected as the rice because it is earlier in the planting process. “We’d estimated we had about one-third of the beans planted in the parish, maybe a little less,” he said. “About 60-70 percent of what was planted is most likely going to be replanted, maybe not quite that high because a lot of the farmers who were able to plant soybeans planted on higher ground not so much is rice fields.”
Like the rice, the stands of the soybean plants will be impacted by the flooding. “Soybeans were just planted, so it’s mostly gonna affect the stand to try to get a stand,” said Fontenot. “If some were planted, they just rotted in the ground because they stayed so wet.”
Another area of Evangeline Parish agriculture that was impacted is crawfish because some ponds flooded over as well. “Fisherman even in ponds that didn’t flood over weren’t able to crawfish in some of the ponds because you’re already holding a lot of water in a crawfish pond, and then that water gets deeper,” Fontenot said. “Sometimes it covers your traps even before you can let it settle back down, so a lot of crawfishermen were not able to fish some ponds. Some people couldn’t get to ponds. It causes a lot of extra work, and stress, and issues.”
According to Bieber, “Some of (our crawfish ponds) got flooded, too, but not as bad as the rice.”
Pastures and hay fields around the parish have also been hit hard. “Several acres have gone under water,” said Fontenot. “A few guys had to move cattle around because the pastures were flooded, and the cattle were standing in water.”
One crop that was exempt from the flood damage is sweet potatoes that are grown on the higher ground in the eastern part of the parish between the Faubourg and Grand Prairie areas. Larry Fontenot continues to farm his family’s sweet potatoes after the passing of his father Earl.
“The flood did not affect us that much,” admitted Larry. “The first rain event that took place was a welcomed rain event because we were very dry, and then the one that fell during the middle of the week was not needed, but it did not cause any problems for us other than just a start in planting.”
“We didn’t have any crop planted at the time,” he continued. “We didn’t have any flooding. We didn’t have any fields that flooded or crops that got destroyed with this recent rain. When you get water backed up into a sweet potato field, usually it’s because we’re very close to a big drainage ditch, canal, or bayou. But for the most part all of your sweet potato ground is relatively high.”