In my lifetime, musicians have released countless songs talking about rain. Farmers, like myself, across Mississippi usually pray for rain this time of year. Think Luke Bryan’s 2009 single “Rain is a Good Thing,” which describes the benefits of receiving rain.
However, while it is vital for crops to receive rain to sustain and flourish, there is such a thing as “too much of a good thing.” Excessive rain at one time can be detrimental to the growth of major row crops grown in Mississippi, such as corn, rice, soybeans and cotton.
In June, North Mississippi received “too much of a good thing” after multiple heavy rainfall events dumped between 15-20 inches of rain in less than 24 hours. That much heavy rainfall and wind caused immediate damage to crops. But the water spilling out of riverbanks in the North Delta over to New Albany and Ripley and down to Yalobusha and Calhoun counties quickly caused flooding, crippling the crops that were left and devastating homes and businesses.
Bill O’Neal, farm manager for Allendale Planting Company in Bolivar County, has never experienced the amount of rainfall June’s storm brought to the area.
“We’re still waiting on the water to go down to see what crops we will be able to recover and what our plan is going to be moving forward,” O’Neal said. “Everything is unknown right now because we are continuing to receive rain.”
A natural disaster of this magnitude will have a negative economic impact for the state with initial estimates already showing over $500 million in crop damages and more than 700,000 acres destroyed statewide. Rural communities and businesses in North Mississippi who depend on farmers for their income will take a hit. The farmers themselves will suffer. They will have to determine whether to replant the same crop, try to grow something new since the planting season for most crops has already passed, or report a total loss.
“It’s definitely going to have a big economic impact,” Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation North Mississippi Vice President and Bolivar County farmer Donald Gant said. “About a fifth of our crop is under water which could potentially cost us up to a quarter of a million dollars. And we’re lucky because there are some folks whose entire crop is under water.”
The farmers who have to replant their fields know they will take a loss, but are just trying to make it to next year. No matter what Mother Nature brings, farmers are still responsible for their overhead costs, like seed, fertilizer and equipment payments.
With so many factors out of their control, it makes you wonder why and how farmers continue to push forward. Dekoka Davidson, a Sunflower County farmer with 41 years of experience, sums it up.
“We’re trying to feed the world,” she said. “We’re trying to provide for our communities. When you’re working so hard to do that and something like this happens, it’s devastating. We will push forward with a lot of hard work. We just ask you to keep us in your prayers while we do it.”
I also implore you to say a prayer and advocate for the people who continue to work to provide you with food, fiber and shelter. Pictures do not represent how serious this flooding is for Mississippi’s farmers, ranchers and rural communities. Despite all of the devastation our fellow Mississippians are facing, one thing is for certain – the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation, the largest general farm organization in Mississippi with more than 180,000 member families, stands ready to help in any way we can.
Mike McCormick is President of the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation and a cattle and timber farmer in Jefferson County.