Wednesday, November 8, 2023

Sid Salter: Disastrous Drought Threatens Crops, Livestock, & Barge Transport

 While the bulk of conversation in the state in recent days has been devoted to the election and college football fortunes, the most impactful conversation among farmers, ranchers, livestock producers and others in the state’s 9.72 billion agricultural economy.

The worst drought in decades in Mississippi – impacting over 98 percent of both the state’s land area and population – is threatening farmers and consumers in the production of crops, liver stock and barge transportation on the Mississippi River.

Why should non-farmers care? First, agriculture is part of the bedrock of the state’s economy and second, in a time of double-digit inflation in food prices, markets don’t need additional pressures driving prices.

How does drought affect Mississippi agriculture? The Mississippi State University Extension Service reports that in 2022, the state’s agriculture value reached $9.7 billion – with poultry production accounting for $3.8 billion, soybeans accounting for $1.8 billion and forestry posting $1,3 billion.

Rounding out the top five Mississippi crops in terms of agricultural value produced were corn at $631 million and cotton at $624 million. The sixth highest ag production in overall value was livestock at $456 million, followed by catfish production at $258 million.

Coming in at No. 8 was hay production at $164 million followed by sweet potatoes at $112 million. Specialty crops – fruit, nuts, vegetables, etc. – were 10th overall in Mississippi agriculture production at $111 million. Rice ($97 million), wheat ($36 million) and peanuts ($13 million) rounded out major crop value data for Mississippi farmers.

Water, or the scarcity of it, impacts production of all those crops. Even hay, which normally helps livestock herds survive the winter when grass isn’t growing, has been a victim of the drought. The lack of green grass has forced producers to begin feeding hay much earlier this year – if hay is available.

While southwest Mississippi has been the epicenter of the drought, the majority of Mississippi counties are presently in exceptional or extreme drought conditions. Many livestock producers have been forced to confront the possibility of liquidating their herds due to a lack of water and/or hay. Row crops have been impacted in terms of yields and soybeans crops face the lack of available barges to move their crops due to the perilously low level of the Mississippi River.

2023 marks the second consecutive year that the “Mighty Mississippi” is at historically low levels, exposing usually submerged sandbars and significantly disrupting barge shipping. The low levels of the Mississippi have allowed saltwater intrusion from the Gulf of Mexico at the mouth of the river to threaten drinking water for Louisiana residents.

From a trade standpoint, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that the volume of grain shipped on the Mississippi has dropped by half from the average of the past three years.

The drought has so far led to disaster declarations in 44 Mississippi counties as the state experienced the 13th driest September since 1895 and the 49th driest January through September on record since 1895, according to the National Integrated Drought Information Service.

Mississippi State Climatologist and MSU meteorology professor Mike Brown told leaders of Mississippi Farm Bureau last week in Jackson that drought conditions are expected to continue in the near term, but that winter weather models suggest that El Nino weather patterns this winter could bring significantly cooler temperatures and wetter conditions.

But for farmers already struggling this year, that may be too late to avoid significant impacts on row crop yields and on the ability to carry livestock herds through the winter.

Ted Kendall IV of Bolton, who along with his family operates the multigenerational, diversified Gaddis Farms operation, called the present drought “as bad as I’ve ever seen.” Kendall, a director on the Mississippi Farm Bureau board, said the organization had a lot of work to do in creating public awareness of the scope and impact of Mississippi’s current drought emergency “outside the agriculture community.”


Anonymous said...

News Flash:
Big drought in Mississippi
Crops require water and are dried up
Barges require river water and are dried up
Ag prices will rise due to low supply.

Stroke of genius there Sid.

Anonymous said...

No worries. Bennie will save the day.

Anonymous said...

All the ponds and lakes are drying up. This shit is serious

Anonymous said...

Farm Welfare always, always, always pays off. Save the crocodile tears from the frat boy farmers for someone else. Heads, they win. Tails, consumers and taxpayers lose. Never changes.

Anonymous said...

More farm subsidies in 3, 2, 1...

Anonymous said...

This is the worst dry spell I can remember...ever. And I'm an old dude.

Anonymous said...

More drought, less work, more subsidies. Win!

Anonymous said...

For all you non-ag types: You think food prices are high now? If it were not for farm subsidies you would be paying $12 for a gallon of milk and $10 for a loaf of bread.

Anonymous said...

Plenty of YouTube meteorologists with videos about the strong El Niño. Most of them are also cautioning that strong El Niño causes south-reaching polar vortexes, so we might have bad snow storms this year in the south.

Keep in mind that this precarious balance of warmth we live in could turn into another mini-ice age. North America has been a frozen place for a lot longer than it has been warm and comfy.

Anonymous said...

@9:10 AM - Where does that subsidy money come from? From the taxpayers after the feds take a huge cut!

This is a classic example of the taxpayers being bribed with their own money!

Anonymous said...

@ 9:34 - Your concluding remarks are in direct contradiction with the facts as presented by Al Gore. And he was a Vice President while you're just a common blog visitor. He also roomed, in college, with Tommy Lee Jones. Who should we believe?

Anonymous said...

That money wasted on Ukraine could have really paid more on subsidies. That's right wasted. The talk now, is trying to settle with Putin. That could have been accomplished a few months after the war started.

Money wasted. Money this nation may need to buy food from the rest of the world if this drought continues, because the entire nation is running a rain fall deficit.

Anonymous said...

River floods-Panic, River low-Panic, Sand bar at Victoria Bend shifts-Panic

Anonymous said...

For you non-educated types like 9:10 AM
The subsidies cause the inflation that causes the prices to rise.
The problem is farmers do not want to be subjected to the fluctuations of the market.
They are fine when the yields are low and market prices are high.
They want us to pay the difference when yields are high but market prices are low.
Crazy that few other businesses gets the taxpayer to subsidize their losses like bankers and farmers.

Anonymous said...

for all you fidget spinners

rain good

Anonymous said...

@9:10 AM - No worries, as I don't drink milk and don't eat bread. Y'all can eat cake. Those subsidies that you embrace come from....wait for it...taxpayers.

Anonymous said...

I know you are being facetious. However, there are patterns to these cycles. There is Wheeler’s Drought Clock which predicts both war and famine in decades. There’s the farmers almanac which predicted this drought as well. The secrets to these predictions are predominantly solar. The most powerful influence on our climate is our star and our relative position in orbit and proximity to it at any given time.

Ancient people figure this stuff out without computers. But it is more profitable to keep people ignorant. Imagine being a commodity trader knowing years in advance that this drought was coming because he and a select few kept this knowledge suppressed.

Ebenezer S. said...

Like it or not, Mississippi is an ag state and Sid is only raising awareness of how this drought is affecting us. Normally over half of all U.S. grain exports is shipped on the Mississippi River, leaving from New Orleans, but this year the River can’t handle the barge traffic it normally does. Delta farmers who depend on the ports in Rosedale and Greenville are out of luck, and contrary to what you keyboard warrior trolls think, it negatively affects all of us including the farmer.

Many of this blog’s readers just come here to see what kind of negativity they can spread and not for any meaningful contribution. Get a life, losers.

Anonymous said...

11:36 - yes, we taxpayers furnish the funds. Aggravating ain't it!!! Ha.

Anonymous said...

Nobody can control the weather, all I ask is that competitive markets control prices, and that all reasonably clean fuels are available to power all forms of transportation of goods. This requires a GOP president, not a perverse snake nest of regulations and subsidies.

Anonymous said...

Finish the Delta Pumps NOW!

Anonymous said...

Mega Dittos, 1:19. Thank you.

John Dear said...

So, can I assume those of you who bitch about 'farm subsidies' would be OK with farmers going out of bidness and crop production counting on Chinese imports?

Then what would you bitch about? You don't even know, because you're ignorant.

Anonymous said...

Why can’t we all have subsidies then?
My dad’s factory job got sent to China in 2003 and he didn’t get a government subsidy.
I think the point is that the free market will work if the government will leave it alone.
A perfect example of this is the ethanol in our fuel.
Here’s a radical thought.
Perhaps farmers shouldn’t grow so much corn and expect Uncle Sam to buy and and find a use for it?

Anonymous said...

We all know we're short on rainfall this Year, we all know that Farmers don't actually have many Risk anymore. Between Farm Subsidies, Insurance for Weather losses) ( hot, cold, wet,dry) which they pay for. )There aren't the Old Time Risk there once was when they made Individual decisions to do it this way or that way. We all need a good rain-

Anonymous said...

All right. Which one of you goobers sent Sid the report full of numbers from the Extension Service and gave him his column for the week? Sid luuuuuhrves lots of numbers.

Cora Bobo said...

Saying a farmer has no risk because of crop insurance is like saying someone doesn’t have to worry about a car wreck because they have auto insurance. It would be nice if commenters would do more than watch a Tik Tok video before posting.

Anonymous said...

Correct me if I am wrong, but aren't field crops typically booked with the broker months if not a year in advance and they are paid based upon what price they booked xyz grain? Then the farmer delivers x number of bushels for y price to the terminal and at that point, its the terminals issue to deal with. Is that correct? Also, talking about subsidies, pretty much all row crops are out of the field by now and most fields have been worked for the next growing season. I bet by March this drought is over. Last good dry spell we had a catastrophic river flood that following spring.

Anonymous said...

@ 6:41: If your dad's job went to China, he DID get a subsidy. He drew unemployment insurance for 26 weeks. And he drew federal extended benefits, after that, if the plant closed.

Or perhaps he did not draw unemployment benefits because he took another job. Farmers don't typically simply change occupations or jobs when crops fail or can't be planted for some reason. Most of them, of any size, also have crop insurance, sold locally.

And to the guy at 1:19, taking up for Poor Ole Sid...The critique of this and many others of his writings (as well as those of Crawford) is that he simply regurgitates what is already known. He is not, as you claim, raising awareness. He's simply republishing the work of others and selling it.

Anonymous said...

One of the above posters sat in a high school senior math class in Cleveland, Mississippi back around 1955-70. If you know which poster that was, you win a prize. The poster that applies to cannot play.

Carry on.

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