The nation’s sugar cane crop likely took the biggest beating of any farm commodity from Hurricane Ida as it barreled northeast through Louisiana and Mississippi over the weekend and into Monday, but some cotton, rice, and soybean acres may have seen damage too.
Ida made landfall just west of New Orleans at Port Fourchon, Louisiana, as a Category 4 storm Sunday with winds topping 150 miles per hour. This is roughly 45 miles west of where Hurricane Katrina, a Category 3 storm, hit 16 years earlier on the same date.
USDA Meteorologist Brad Rippey said Louisiana accounts for nearly half of the sugar cane crop produced in the U.S.
“Ida passed right through the core of southern Louisiana’s production area which extends inland as far as Baton Rouge,” Rippey told Agri-Pulse.
The storm hit just before sugar cane harvest is set to begin in September and Rippey fears there will be stalk lodging which makes harvesting difficult. He said saltwater impacts to coastal fields are also a concern.
“That can have long-term impacts on areas and their ability to grow sugar cane due to the saltwater contamination,” Rippey noted.
Further north, Rippey is worried about crop quality degradation for some cotton, rice, and soybean fields but noted the core of the storm moved east and southeast of the primary Mississippi Delta production areas. Those areas are northeastern Louisiana, western Mississippi, and eastern Arkansas.
“We do expect to see some impacts on those row crops. Cotton bolls were starting to open. More than a third of the cotton was open across Louisiana and Mississippi,” Rippey said.
A spokesperson for the USA Rice Federation told Agri-Pulse the organization is still assessing the situation. The spokesperson said rice harvest in southwest Louisiana was largely completed and the group is still waiting to hear from farmers who may have been impacted in northeast Louisiana and Mississippi.
On Saturday, the U.S. Coast Guard ordered no vessel movement on the lower Mississippi River from the Gulf of Mexico to river mile 303. New Orleans is at river mile 100 and Baton Rouge is at 232.
Mike Steenhoek, executive director of the Soy Transportation Coalition, said he’s monitoring how the storm damage could have impacted export facilities there.
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“That’s something that could really have an impact as our fall harvest season approaches and our key export window gets closer,” Steenhoek told Agri-Pulse. It’s unclear if export facilities saw damage, he said.
Steenhoek noted the lower Mississippi River area is the largest export region for corn and soybeans, accounting for 61% of soybean and 58% of corn exports. He noted 18.3 million bushels of corn, 5.2 million bushels of soybeans, and 2.6 million bushels of wheat were exported through lower Mississippi terminals the week ending Aug. 19.
Steenhoek noted most of the export facilities are built to withstand hurricanes, but noted the significance of the storm's 150 mph winds.
“One-hundred-fifty mile per hour sustained winds that Hurricane Ida provided is quite a punch, so it wouldn’t be surprising at all to see some degree of damage to export capacity,” he said.
The Department of Agriculture reminded producers Friday about available disaster assistance programs to help farmers who’ve been impacted by the storm. Resources include guidance on food safety during power outages, care for livestock, and assessment of crop damage.
At midday, Entergy, which provides power to Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas, reported over 800,000 customers have been affected by power outages in Louisiana.
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