Nearly three million acres of farmland in three southern U.S. states have been submerged by flood waters from the raging Mississippi River and its smaller tributaries, adding to troubles in seeding this year’s crops in the world’s top grain exporter.
Although the area constitutes one per cent land seeded with major crops in the United States, the loss comes at a time when grains have soared due to dwindling supplies, weather woes in other exporting nations and increased consumption.
From Tennessee to Arkansas to Mississippi, flood waters caused by melting snow and excessive spring rains have inundated crops like corn, soybeans, wheat and rice or delayed their seeding beyond dates for optimal yields.
Rice will be the crop most affected, with farmland responsible for 10 per cent of the U.S. rice crop unlikely to be planted.
“I’ve never seen anything like this and I’ve been farming for 31 years. This is a once-in-a-lifetime flood,” said Joe Christian, a 48-year-old second-generation farmer in Jonesboro, Arkansas, about 60 miles northwest of Memphis.
“It’s way too late in the season to plant corn but I’m going to have to replant some of it anyway because I have no choice. I had a lot of it presold,” he said.
Water from the swollen Cache River, which has backed up due to the volume of water flowing down the Mississippi, has swamped 950 acres of Christian’s rice crop and 150 acres of corn, which he will likely replant once the water recedes.
Farmers across the region will be facing similar dilemmas in the coming weeks as many have already sold a portion of their crops to lock in record or near-record prices.
Arkansas, Tennessee and Mississippi have each lost or were expected to lose around one million acres, but so far only Arkansas has detailed figures on how much of each crop has been affected.