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May 25, 2011

Conditions along the Mississippi will be Slow to Return to Normal

One of the big unknowns this year is going to be the number of corn, soybean, cotton, and wheat acres that have been destroyed by the extensive flooding along the Mississippi River. If an area had already been planted to corn or cotton, it will probably be too late to do any replanting once the flood waters have receded.

For soybeans, it's a much more difficult decision. In the mid-South and the Delta, soybeans can be planted until mid-June or even late June if it dries out in time, so there is the possibility that soybeans could still be planted in the flooded areas, but we need to be cautious about assuming what can be planted after a severe flood.

Once the flood waters have receded, it's not like returning to the fields after a series of heavy rains. After a severe flood, there can be numerous hurdles that farmers would never encounter under more normal circumstances such as: tons of sediment deposited on the fields, or severe erosion of the topsoil, crusting of the topsoil/sediment, debris deposited in the fields, leaching of fertilizers that had already been applied or the fertilizers just being washed away, damaged roads, damaged homes, damaged farm buildings, damaged grain storage units, damaged machinery, a tremendous amount of additional costs for farmers just to get back into the fields, etc., etc., etc. I am sure there are many other problems that I have not listed here.

The bottom line is that after a severe flood such as what has occurred along the Mississippi River, things do not "just get back to normal" once the flood waters recede. It can take weeks, months, or years before farmers completely recover. Therefore, I feel it is unrealistic to think that these flooded acres will return to normal farming activity any time soon. As a result, the "universe of planted acres" in the U.S. in 2011 could end up being much lower than what was expected in the March Prospective Planting Report. This could eventually result in a reduction in corn, soybean, cotton, and wheat acreage above what is already expected. If wet weather returns to the region, the drying out process would take even longer than what is already expected.