Ranchers in coastal Louisiana are being forced to move their herds inland and crop farmers along the Mississippi and Alabama coastlines are hoping their fields stay unharmed with the oil in the Gulf of Mexico continuing to move closer to shore. But agriculture's biggest concern is actually the potential damage from a tropical storm surge this summer. The Atlantic hurricane season opened Tuesday and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is calling for 14 to 23 storms this year including up to seven major hurricanes.
A hurricane or powerful tropical storm that drives the Gulf's oil-saturated waters up to 100 miles inland would be the worst-case scenario for agriculture in Louisiana. The Louisiana Department of Ag and Forestry's Emergency Coordinator John Walter says that could affect a large portion of the state's ag area including sugarcane, rice, citrus and some inland aquaculture areas. Commercial fishermen in the state are already suffering. Due to the oil spill Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation's Director of Public Relations Mike Danna says some have reported losses of $2,000-$5,000 a day. The Obama Administration has declared a commercial fisheries failure for Louisiana allowing shrimpers, oystermen and other fishermen to get federal financial assistance.
The story isn't much better for livestock producers. According to Robert Joyner, Louisiana Cattlemen's Association Executive Vice President, the shores are a mess. In parts of southeastern Louisiana the marshgrass is dying, making it toxic for livestock to consume. Joyner says it's going to be a long, drawn-out impact.