WASHINGTON, Aug. 23, 2016 - Louisianans are still waiting for the water to recede, cleaning up the damage, taking stock of their losses and trying to salvage what they can from the devastation of recent flooding. President Barack Obama is scheduled to visit some of the worst hit areas today, but farmers and ranchers may be too busy trying to save their livelihoods or just count up the losses.

The rains and flooding hit at the worst possible time for many, just as farmers were harvesting their soybeans or preparing to plant sugarcane. It’s really bad out there and the Louisiana Farm Bureau has been documenting some of the pain by interviewing farmers. Below are some snippets of those interviews.

  • Ricky Rousel, soybean and sugarcane farmer near Convent, La.:Rousel, standing near 200 acres of flooded soybeans that he said will be a complete loss, expects to lose about $200,000 this year. “If it doesn’t quit raining, it’s going to impact me big time because I really believe that these are lost. We should be planting sugarcane and the soybeans should have been harvested.”
  • Stacy Albert, sugarcane farmer in Lafayette Parish: Albert, who farms 2,600 acres of sugarcane, said his fields were hit with 24 inches in 24 hours. “The biggest concern right now is finding work for the guys who are here to plant right now. Our whole labor force is here … right now. With the mills starting processing on the 27th of September, we’re down to about six weeks to get a crop planted.”
  • Richard Fontenot, soybean and rice grower in Evangeline Parish:“We had catastrophic losses across the farm – both soybeans and rice. Between the rainfall and the flooding, I’m afraid we’re going to get a tremendous amount of quality loss with the germination of the seed out in the field.”
  • Joy Womack, dairy farmer in East Baton Rouge Parish: “You can’t cut any hay. We have no extra hay this year … so that’s making it hard on us and everyone else in the community because no one has hay for their cows this year. It’s a hard road that we have to look down, but we’re still blessed because we didn’t lose a life and we still have our homes and there’s so many people who lost everything.”

Louisiana Agriculture Commissioner meets flood victims. All this weekCommissioner Mike Strain will on the road, meeting with some of the farmers hit hardest by the recent flooding in southern Louisiana, according to the USA Rice Federation. The commissioner, along with officials from USDA’s Farm Service Agency and Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Louisiana State University AgCenter will be holding several meetings in different locations for farmers.

A visit from Japanese agriculture and food regulators. Representatives from Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture and Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare arrived in the U.S. Sunday for a week-long trip, according to the U.S. Grains Council.  

The Japanese officials are scheduled to visit Louisiana, North Carolina, Maryland and Washington, D.C. in an effort to get a better understanding of biotechnology laws and policies. While in D.C. they are scheduled to meet with officials from the USDA, EPA, FDA and CropLife America.

Trump denies reversal on deportation plan. Donald Trump denies that he’s flip-flopped on his call to deport illegal immigrants, but his advisers continue to send mixed messages. During an interview with Fox and Friends yesterday, Trump said he is working with “people in the Hispanic community” to come up with a deportation policy. “We want to come up with a really fair but firm answer,” he said.  

Trump was supposed to deliver a speech on immigration during an appearance in Akron, Ohio, last night, but CNN reported that the remarks were being rescheduled and that his policy was being “fine-tuned.” 

Trump has called for creating some kind of “deportation force” to remove illegal immigrants from the country, but his new campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, said during an interview over the weekend that his policy was yet “to be determined.” Trump’s top adviser on agriculture policy, Sam Clovis, has indicated that Trump couldn’t back down on his deportation threat, even for farm workers. “We made a promise to the American people and we’re going to keep it,” Clovis told Agri-Pulse.

USDA highlights trade deal successes. With the fate of the Trans-Pacific Partnership uncertain, the USDA is highlighting the successes of the CAFTA-DR trade agreement. U.S. agricultural exports to Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua more than doubled from 2005 through 2015 because of the agreement, according to a new reportreleased by USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service.

“On a value basis, U.S. exports of corn, beef, cotton and various high-value, processed foods experienced immediate benefits,” the report concluded. “The largest increases in U.S. imports were for tropical products such as sugar, fresh fruit, cocoa beans and instant coffee.”

In 2005, the year before CAFTA-DR was implemented, The U.S. exported $1.9 billion worth of agricultural commodities to the six countries, according to the report. In 2015, that total was up to $4.2 billion. One of the biggest increases was in shipments of poultry. Exports were valued at $60.8 million in 2005 and $216.5 million in 2015.

Phil Brasher contributed to this report.


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