The American Farm Bureau Federation is now estimating that nearly 3.6 million acres of farmland have been impacted by recent flooding. Farm Bureau Chief Economist Bob Young says the effect of the flooding is being felt deeply across the south. Arkansas is at the top of the list of devastation with a million acres affected. This includes 300,000 acres of rice and 120,000 acres of wheat. Young says in particular the flooding has impacted U.S. rice production.
"We're talking about upwards of 40% of the rice crop this year being affected by this," Young said. "Admittedly the United States is not the world critical rice producer but we are a pretty significant player in world trade of rice. So we need that dirt back in production and I don't see any reason why we can't make that leap."
Tennessee has reported 650,000 acres impacted by the flood, with Mississippi and Missouri falling next in line at 600,000 and 570,000 acres respectively. Illinois is estimated to have half-a million acres under water, while Louisiana is pegged at 280,000 acres. Young says it's critical for the government to act quickly to rebuild levees and allow producers to make plans for the future. In many of the affected areas agriculture is the major economic driver and it's important to think about the long-term economic health of these farms and communities.
"The question needs to ask is can we afford to not have that economic activity go on that was behind those levees before we blew them up or opened the floodgates or whatever," Young said. "You want that economic activity to go on back there because there's really nothing else you can do with all that dirt besides agriculture. Once the waters get down and we're able to get back out and get to work we really need to get those levees that were damaged or destroyed back in place; we need to get the protection back in place for the folks that work the dirt behind those levees. That's probably our number one priority at this stage of the game."