Sugarcane farmers and millers held their collective breath last month when a double whammy of hurricanes threatened Louisiana.
By Jim Simon
Manager, American Sugar Cane League
Hurricane Marco was a bust, but Hurricane Laura hit Cameron Parish as a category 4 storm with 150 miles an hour wind. As hurricanes go, it was a compact-in-size but fast-moving tempest that tore through the Cameron community and caused severe residential and infrastructure damage from Lake Charles as far north as Natchitoches and beyond.
Louisiana’s rice farmers in southwest Louisiana were in the middle of harvesting and worked very hard to get as much grain into storage as possible. Despite their efforts, some grain bins sustained damage and stored rice got wet.
The sugarcane industry hopes our fellow farmers can mitigate the damage to their crop and we wish them well.
So, was the 2020 Louisiana sugarcane crop affected by Hurricane Laura? Yes, but a macro view of the entire 480,000 harvestable acres indicates that the damage is minimal. As long has harvesting weather is good, it should be fine. Before the hurricane, the United States Department of Agriculture projected Louisiana would produce about 1.85 million short tons of raw sugar and we still expect to hit that goal.
The anticipated storm surge was not as bad as predicted because Laura changed its course a few degrees to the west just before landfall. As a result, we did not take on the same kind of damage that Hurricane Rita brought us in 2005. While Rita’s storm surge inundated more than 40,000 cane acres, Laura affected far less than that. There was some flooding in newly planted acreage, but planting was ahead of schedule and the storm’s rain was welcome in some dry areas of the cane belt.
Decades ago, if cane was blown over and lodged, it was a problem. Modern harvesting equipment and techniques changed all that. The cane will right itself and grow toward the sun as the land dries. Though the stalk may develop a crook, today’s cane harvesters can pick up downed cane.
Ultimately, we’ll know how the weather, including Hurricane Laura and future cold and rain events, will affect the current crop when the harvest is completed in the first weeks of 2021.
If you want to help farmers who suffered hurricane damage, the Louisiana Farm Bureau Foundation Disaster Relief Fund is the conduit used by the state’s largest general farm organization following hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005 to get funds into the hands of those involved in agriculture for rebuilding and recovery.
Hay, barbwire and fenceposts are being trucked in from Texas by good Samaritans and south Louisiana sugarcane farmers are bringing fuel to poultry growers in the north. Jim Harper, the Louisiana Farm Bureau president and a central Louisiana grain, crawfish and sugarcane farmer, said, “It’s just what folks in agriculture do when people are in need.”
To donate, make checks payable to Louisiana Farm Bureau Foundation Disaster Relief Fund and mail them to:
Louisiana Farm Bureau Foundation Disaster Relief Fund
P.O. Box 95004
Baton Rouge, LA 70895-9004
To learn more, visit www.lafarmbureau.org or contact Ashley Stephens at 225-922-6201 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or Kyle McCann at 225-922-6202 or email@example.com.
You may also want to make a monetary donation to the Food Bank of Central Louisiana.