Andrew Granger, Schultz, Bruce, Cormier, Howard J. | 4/4/2006 2:27:49 AM
COW ISLAND – Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco recently heard from LSU AgCenter county agents about the losses Vermilion Parish farmers have endured in the aftermath of Hurricane Rita.
The briefing for the governor, her staff and legislators came at the end of a tour Friday (March 31) to see the damage in Southwest Louisiana. The final stop was at the E. Broussard Elementary School. The entourage had toured the Lake Charles and Cameron Parish areas earlier in the day.
LSU AgCenter county agents Andrew Granger and Howard Cormier told the guests Hurricane Rita’s effect on agriculture has been far-reaching in Vermilion Parish.
Granger said a farmer told him, "Hurricane Audrey was a baby compared to Rita."
Flood water inundated 60,000 acres of pasture, and the storm reduced the Vermilion Parish’s total cattle herd by 10,000, Granger said, adding that many cattle owners had no choice but to sell off their herds.
Although hay has been donated from across the United States and a Dallas company contributed a large amount of wire for fencing, Granger stressed recovery will be a long-term challenge.
LSU AgCenter estimates predict approximately $9 million in annual income losses among area cattle farmers.
In addition to those losses, Cormier said rice and sugarcane farmers were facing tough times even before the storm, and the storm only made those worse.
Sugarcane farmers were about to harvest their crop when Rita struck, he explained, and rice farmers lost their second crop.
Debris in the fields after the storm posed a hazard – with propane and oxygen bottles beneath piles of dead marsh vegetation, Cormier said. Even more, salt water pushed inland by the storm surge damaged fields and equipment.
"Farmers are down on their backs," Cormier said.
Mark Poche, president of the Vermilion Parish Police Jury, said 6,000 homes in the parish were damaged, and only 1,700 of the 3,212 requests for mobile homes from parish residents were granted by the Federal Emergency Management Authority. The parish has issued 203 permits for new residences and 459 for demolitions, he said.
Among the legislators on the trip were state Rep. Joe Salter of Florien, speaker of the house; Senate President Don Hines of Bunkie and Senate Pro Tempore Yvonne Dorsey of Baton Rouge.
Andrew Granger at (337) 898-4335 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Howard Cormier at (337) 898-4335 or email@example.com
Bruce Schultz at (337) 788-8821 or firstname.lastname@example.org