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Late planting seen hitting yields of major row crops

By JACK WEATHERLY

Late planting due to flooding will have a negative impact on yields of major row crops in Mississippi, according to Dr. Josh Maples, assistant agricultural economics professor at Mississippi State University.

For example, only 55 percent of Mississippi cotton is currently setting bolls. The five-year average is 74 percent, Maples said, adding that soybeans setting pods are at 63 percent, compared with 71 percent a year ago.

On the national level, the story is worse. Soybeans setting pods in Indiana is at 8 percent, Iowa at 13 percent, and Illinois at 14 percent setting pods, he said. The average is about 50 percent for those states at this time of year.

Corn maturity across the country is similarly behind.

Corn planting in Mississippi this year is approximately 590,000 acres, compared with 480,000 in 2018, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Cotton planting this year in the state is put at 700,000 acres, compared with 620,000 in 2108, according to a preliminary USDA report.

The Delta flooding has been called the worst since the catastrophic deluge of 1927.

About 250,000 acres of cropland were flooded in the spring, about 9 percent of the arable land in the 4.4 million-acre Delta, Maples said in an early-June interview.

The Delta – a vast, incredibly fertile alluvial plain – accounts for about 75 percent of the state’s total acreage planted in soybeans, cotton, rice and corn, he said.

A major issue in the flooding is the fact that the southern part of the Delta has had to basically just live with it.

Pumps that had been proposed to draw the water off and into the Mississippi River were blocked in 2008 by the Environmental Protection Agency because of concerns of damaging wetland ecosystems.

The hue and cry in favor of renewing the pumps project were reflected last week when two Mississippi Republicans, U.S. Sens. Cindy Hyde-Smith and Roger Wicker, introduced a bill to restore the project.

The Flood Reduction, Wildlife Habitat, and Water Quality Improvement Act would amend the Clean Water Act to prohibit the EPA from vetoing a Corps of Engineers flood control project specifically authorized by Congress.

A recent opinion piece by spokespersons for the Mississippi chapters of the Audubon Society and Sierra Club published in the Clarion Ledger questioned the effectiveness of the project, contending that the pumping system would remove only 32 percent of the backwater.

Also, the opinion piece argued that “the project is not designed communities from flooding. [Eighty] percent of project benefits would be for agriculture” by draining “tens of thousands acres of wetlands.”

The project is the last unconstructed feature of a 77-year flood control effort in the Lower Mississippi Valley, the senators state in a news release.

Meantime, the final report from the USDA on planting figures is expected to be released on Aug. 12, Maples said. There are likely to be record levels of prevented-planting acreage this year, Maples said.

The preliminary USDA report, which was released June 28, shows soybean planting in Mississippi at 1.95 million acres, down from 2.23 million in 2018.

The report shows that nationwide planting of soybeans to be 80 million acres. down roughly 10 percent.

Another assault on farmers are Chinese tariffs on soybeans and other agricultural products – including pork, a mainstay of the diet in China, which has been slammed by porcine fever that has decimated herds.

The tariffs imposed by the communist nation are in response to tariffs placed by the United States on steel and aluminum from that country. Meantime, the federal government has granted $28 billion in two waves to bail out the besieged farmers.

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About Jack Weatherly