While residents of south Louisiana’s coast deal with the effects of an uncontrolled offshore oil leak, farmers in the area are in the midst of a difficult early growing season.

Until the last week of May, rains were scarce in the region.

“Everyone is very concerned” with the gushing oil, says Blaine Viator, a well-known crop consultant based in Plattenville, La. “It’s definitely having an impact. Of course, we know people in the fisheries industry who are in bad shape. Sports fishermen are also concerned, obviously.

“You can still get seafood but it’s getting a bit more difficult to find and prices are rising. That was expected.”

Some have pointed to sugarcane bagasse as a potential sponge for the growing oil slick. Viator doesn’t think that will happen “because sugar mills need bagasse to fuel their boilers.”

Those with rental property on the coast — “and I know several folks that are in this situation” — are also hard-hit. “Just about all the reservations have been cancelled. So, there are a lot of people concerned about making notes and keeping their property up. There are a lot of potential foreclosures hanging out there if the vacation season passes like this.”

The situation and clean-up won’t happen soon, says Viator. “Hurricanes have wiped us out before. But after hurricanes — with blood, sweat and tears — you can rebuild and slowly get back to normal. But with something like this oil spill, I don’t know how we’ll get back to normal.”

And with hurricane season looming, an inland surge bringing not only saltwater but oil could cause an “unprecedented mess. There were instances where Hurricane Rita affected oil tankers or oil wells — and, in some cases, we never did find out where it came from — and pushed petroleum (inland).”

e-mail: dbennett@farmpress.com