During S.E. Felter’s early teen years, he baled hay a few miles from his Adams County, Miss. home. But now the land Felter worked as a youngster is a lake, after the Mississippi River swelled its banks and pushed water inland along creeks and rivers.
“I’ve never seen the water come up this high,” said Felter, a county supervisor, who has been eyeing the rising water a few miles downhill from his home in southwest Mississippi. “About 90 percent of this crop is underwater.”
Felter’s experience was much like many other Mississippians’, with the current flood impacting 217,000 acres of farmland and displacing 9,000 people in the state. State and federal leaders estimate $237.5 million in damage.
Officials with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Mississippi are assessing the damage to rural communities. Initial reports from the Mississippi Delta have shown the floods have greatly impacted food production in the state. NRCS Mississippi is prepared to work with farmers and ranchers to restore farming and agricultural lands within the state.
Conservationists say a clear response plan has not been determined because of the lingering water, but they expect it to include funding through NRCS’ Emergency Watershed Protection Program (EWP), Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP).
The bulk of the money will likely come as EWP funds, which are commonly used to help communities rebound from natural disasters, including the April tornadoes that impacted the eastern part of the state. It has not yet been determined how much funding will be set aside for flood restoration through these programs. NRCS will also provide technical assistance to other USDA agencies administering other recovery programs.
The water is receding slowly at most places, which will delay or prohibit a late planting this season for farmers. Many soybean and corn fields were submerged, causing those plants to die. Although many farmers had not yet planted cotton, it will likely be too late to plant this year. NRCS funds will aid farmers in restoring their land and preparing for next year’s crop.
Still, floods are part of a way of life along the mighty river, something Warren County farmer Wali Aziz has learned over his years of raising wheat and corn. “My dad told me when I took this place, it would be a gamble,” the third-generation farmer said. NRCS programs are designed to help mitigate that gamble for growers.
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