Preliminary estimates show that Hurricane Isaac caused $100 million worth of losses to Louisiana agriculture. It could have been much worse.

“I don’t want to downplay the harm the storm did to people,” says Kurt Guidry, LSU AgCenter economist, who crunched preliminary damage numbers.  “For those who were hit, it’s awful. But overall, from a statewide standpoint, we were relatively fortunate given the size of Isaac and the amount of time it took to leave the state. It could have packed a much larger punch.”

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Guidry’s view is backed up when comparing Isaac’s $100 million price tag to major weather events that rocked the state’s agriculture sector in recent years. Katrina and Rita cost Louisiana over $1 billion. Gustav and Ike cost well over $200 million.

The timing of Isaac’s arrival also helped keep damage down. For our some of Louisiana’s major row-crop commodities -- corn, grain sorghum, rice -- “we were fortunate that most were harvested prior to the storm coming through,” says Guidry. “With corn and grain sorghum, we were probably around 90 percent, or more, harvested. So, while we have seen an impact on the acres that remained in the field, the impact across the corn and grain sorghum crops is relatively small.”

 For rice, the majority of the acres in south Louisiana were harvested before the storm. Most rice acres that weren’t already in the bin when Isaac’s fury hit were in north Louisiana.

By the time Isaac made it to the northern part of the state “we didn’t see the types of wind and rain that were initially projected. One agent told me around Monroe the wind gusts were around 25 to 30 miles per hour.”

Some 11 percent of the state’s rice yield, representing a loss of $4 million, was affected by Isaac.

For soybeans and cotton, the impacts were greater. In the southern part of the cotton-growing region -- the south-central part of Louisiana -- the storm harmed fields much more. Estimates of yield loss there were between 20 and 30 percent.

“A lot of bolls were knocked onto the ground. As you move north where more cotton acres are, the impact was less significant -- maybe 5 to 10 percent.”

As a result, Louisiana cotton will suffer an estimated $11 million in losses.

In the south of the state, there were significant losses to soybeans, particularly where there was flooding. Some losses were total, although on relatively small acreage.

“Some parishes reported upwards of 50 percent losses on soybeans predominantly being grown on sugarcane fallow ground. In our major soybean-growing areas, the impact was less significant. We’ll monitor the soybean crop closely over the next few weeks.”

Guidry expects Louisiana soybeans will be hit with around $14 million in losses.