Bootheel Farmers Struggling Through Wet Season

June 5, 2003
Posted at: 6:33 p.m. CDT

DUNKLIN COUNTY, Mo. -- Farmers in the bootheel of Missouri say they've had enough -- rain that is.

The amount of rainfall can mean the difference between a great crop and a disastrous crop for farmers. Lately, the recent heavy rains have been a major concern for growers in southeast Missouri.

"Normally, we can get most of our planting through late April and early May easily," said agronomy specialist Mike Milam. "But that didn't happen this year."

Some counties in the bootheel have received ten inches or more rain in the past four weeks. Now Governor Bob Holden wants to have Dunklin, New Madrid, Pemiscot, Scott, and Stoddard counties assessed as natural disaster areas.

"In Dunklin County, we would expect to have about 150,000 acres of cotton," Milam said. "One third of the crops in Dunklin county have been effected."

Holden says excessive rains forced farmers to replant 100,000 acres of cotton and 20,000 acres of soybeans. Milam says this delay may cause a chain reaction.

"They missed a good portion of the prime planting, season so everything is going to be delayed," Milam said. "That's going to have an impact later in the season with insects, weeds and with yield and also the quality of the crop."

Other agriculture experts say plants in Dunklin County are stunted from all the rain. They should be at least an inch taller than what they are now. Milam says farmers are relieved to have help coming from the state, because this could be a very tough year for them.

"I think a lot of people are going to do ok," Milam said. "But some of them are going to be hurting because they didn't have as good a year last year as they would have liked to have had."

It's now up to the U.S. Department of Agriculture to declare the five Missouri counties a disaster. Once that occurs, farmers in those areas can than apply for low interest loans.