While California is on the mend from a drought (we can only hope the rain continues to help replenish our lakes and rivers), many other parts of the country are drowning. Louisiana is recovering from what the National Weather Service is calling a “1,000-year rain” that flooded the area for three days leaving houses, industry and farmland devastated. Louisiana is known for its unique Cajun cuisine, and with such devastation, it has me wondering what they have to do to get those delicious delicacies back on the table.
Estimated damage from the flood is roughly $20 billion to infrastructure and property, much of which includes farmland and livestock. In California we tend think about how the dry arid, weather affects crops, however moderation of weather is key in sustaining growth and food production.
Farmers can incur large cost from clearing fields of debris following a storm. Many regulations can keep certain sediment from being flushed into rivers to aid in clearing debris. Oftentimes, the sediment disrupts the ecosystem of the rivers and oceanfront, which further impedes food producers. A number of items left by a storm need to be physically removed from fields and rivers which can incur massive costs as the ground remains wet and unstable. It also causes confusion as to who is responsible for the costs of the clearing.
In addition, erosion also creates a significant cost of replacing soil to keep the fields in level standing and replace lost nutrients. Farmed fields are also ecosystems which are incredibly complex and difficult to maintain. When various colonies of fungi and bacteria are removed and replaced by others, it disrupts the beneficial balance of microorganisms. These ecosystems help local fish and plant life to thrive or die depending on the makeup of the microscopic level.
Although most damage can be covered by insurance, many times the insurance does not cover the full cost of all of the damages. In some cases insurance does not cover damage based on the type of sustained damage. In addition, there is the Federal Crop Insurance Program, which provides coverage for over 250 million acres in the U.S.; however, this does not guarantee that all losses will be covered due to the strict nature of these programs and to whom they are geared.
Agriculture has been a backbone in American society and there is help for some in these natural disaster areas. FEMA as well as the state declaring a statewide emergency, can free up helpful federal aid to help assist those most affected. However many times this is for the general population and does not always go to help industry rebuild. There are additional benefits through Sustainable Farm Families programs. These programs vary by area and availability of benefits to specific parties and are geared towards family farmers and not corporate entities.
Agriculture has many enemies, and Mother Nature has always been one of them. Being prepared and knowing the available resources before a natural disaster occurs can help ease the way through the hard times, and sail on to calmer waters.