After two major hurricanes in 2008, most Louisiana agricultural producers were hoping for a much-improved production environment this year. Unfortunately, 2009 has been a challenging one for the agricultural sector, according to Kurt Guidry, an LSU AgCenter agricultural economist.

“After an early-season drought, excessive and persistent rains over the past two months have delayed harvest and resulted in both quality and quantity losses for many commodities,” said Guidry.

“While the amount of rain has been an issue for agricultural producers, the timing and the persistence of the rains has been equally as problematic.

“The persistence of the rains and its limits on fieldwork have occurred at likely the worst possible time of the year.”

For many of the agricultural commodities grown in the state, September and October mark the height of the harvest season.

While quantity and quality have been affected by harvest delays, Guidry said, additional damage could occur with additional delays because of the large percentage of crops yet to be harvested.

“Currently, only 29 percent of the cotton crop is harvested as compared to the five-year average of 89 percent. Likewise, only 46 percent of the sweet potato crop is harvested versus the average level of 69 percent. Finally, only 73 percent of the soybean crop is harvested as compared to the five-year average of 94 percent.”

The harvest estimates are from the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), and the damage estimates are based on evaluations from LSU AgCenter agents in each of the state’s 64 parishes.

In addition, historical production and price data were obtained from the NASS, the Agricultural Marketing Service, the USDA’s World Supply and Demand Estimates report, and the LSU AgCenter Summary of Agriculture.

Rainfall totals at 10 locations in the state ranged from 9 to 28 inches with an average of nearly 17 inches since Sept. 1. Equally as important, rain has fallen on average of every 1.95 days during that time.

“Rains essentially occurring every other day have severely limited normal harvest. October rainfall totals have ranged from 6 to 18 inches with an average of 10.6 inches with rain occurring every 1.75 days.”

Guidry said additional rainfall will undoubtedly increase the damages over and above these estimates.