As Isaac bears down on the Gulf Coast, farmers across southern and central Mississippi are preparing to deal with the consequences of high winds and lots of rain.
“We have a two-fold problem for farmers right now,” said Mississippi Farm Bureau President Randy Knight. “The livestock and dairy farmers are worried about losing electricity -- having problems keeping chickens alive and being able to milk their dairy cows. During Katrina, thousands of gallons of milk were lost because there was no power to run the coolers to keep milk fresh.”
“When the power goes out, farmers must run their tractors around the clock to power the generators keeping the chickens cool and fed and the milk fresh,” said Doug Ervin, Farm Bureau Regional Manager for southwest Mississippi. “The challenge at that point is finding enough diesel to keep the tractors going.”
Knight says row crop farmers face a different challenge. “With crops near maturity, heavy rain and wind can destroy in a few hours what has taken all year to grow. Much of the corn crop has already been harvested but soybeans are nearing maturity and many acres of cotton have opened and could be ruined by heavy rains. High winds could blow down these plants and make harvest difficult if not impossible for many farmers. Most of the state's rice crop is headed out and harvest is in full swing.”
Tree farmers face the prospect of losing their stands of timber wiping out many years of growth. These trees also can take down miles of fencing allowing livestock to wander off. Hurricane Katrina knocked down nearly every foot of fence in south Mississippi costing farmers tens of thousands of dollars in livestock losses and much more in timber harvest losses.
Farm Bureau and other agricultural organizations are preparing to assist farmers when the storm passes.