SWLA farmers worried drought will affect profit from crops

WELSH, LA (KPLC) - Farmers across southwest Louisiana are using irrigation systems more frequently as a result of the dry weather conditions this crop season.

Food producers in Jeff Davis Parish have seen less than four inches of rainfall this season. The lack of rainfall is prompting rice farmers to use irrigation systems non-stop to keep their rice under water.

"In this 55-acre field I'll have to pump about 3 days with the deep well," said Chris Krielow, a rice farmer from Roanoke, LA.

Rising diesel prices are forcing farmers to spend large amounts of money to keep their crops alive. Some farmers fear spending $3.50 a gallon on diesel will ruin their profits this harvest season.

"It's definitely going to chew into the profits," Krielow said. "There's no doubt that pumping costs are running double what they normally do."

In addition, increased irrigation can lead to saltwater intrusion for rice farmers.

"With the ditches being so low, the saltwater is backing up the pumps and they are now picking up the saltwater," Krielow said.

According to Louisiana Commission of Agriculture and Forestry Mike Strain, rice is not the only crop suffering from the lack of rains.

"We've had some lower yields on wheat and we're also concerned about cotton, beans, and the pastures if they're not irrigated," said Dr. Strain. "We're hoping to get more rain this week as we move into the growth phase for the crops."

Krielow said he is also praying for rain. However, with increased irrigation he is confident he'll produce a nice yield this crop season.

"Typically in the past when you've pumped a lot you've made a good yield," Krielow said. "Hopefully this year we will, because we've sure pumped a lot."

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