Climatologist predicts wet spring for farmers
Alexandria, Louisiana (February 3, 2009) –
El Niņo is back, and Louisiana farmers – especially those in the southern
part of the state – could be looking at a wet planting season, according to
Jay Grymes, LSU AgCenter climatologist.
El Niņo creates warmer-than-normal water in the central
Pacific, Grymes told a gathering of 175 farmers and agriculture industry
representatives at the LSU AgCenter’s annual Ag Outlook meeting Jan. 21.
The warm water affects the atmosphere above it and in
the Pacific develops a sub-tropical jet stream over the Gulf of Mexico. This
jet stream “induces winter storms in the Gulf of Mexico,” Grymes said.
“El Niņo creates a situation that increases the number
of winter storms that impact our state,” Grymes said. These non-tropical
storms are late fall-winter-spring phenomena.
The next three months have a good chance of being wetter
than normal, he said, adding that 65-70 percent of springs with El Niņo tend
to be wet.
“Farmers need to be prepared to act if more rain comes,”
Grymes said. “We can anticipate rains of 6, 8, 10 inches or more at the
local level” this spring.
In addition to weather concerns, Louisiana farmers also
face increased production in many crops without increased demand, according
to Dr. Kurt Guidry, an LSU AgCenter economist.
Supplies are increasing for a majority of commodities,
Guidry said. So pressure is pushing prices down while acreage is up.
Guidry said, however, that low interest rates and the
strength of the dollar are supporting strong export markets for Louisiana
“Prices for imports are rising, and there’s not a big
increase in production costs,” he said.
Guidry predicted general profitability for Louisiana
farmers in 2010, fueled by strong exports even in the face of growing
His outlook was supported by Dr. Dek Terrell, director
of the LSU Division of Economic Development and the Freeport McMoRan
Professor of Economics at LSU.
“The consensus forecast is for GDP indicators to grow in
the coming year,” Terrell said. “The recession may be about over. That’s
good news for farmers in terms of increased domestic demand.”
GDP – or gross domestic product – is calculated by
adding domestic consumption plus investment plus government spending plus
net exports, he said.
“A weak dollar leads to better export demand, and that’s
also good for farmers,” Terrell said. “It makes our products cheaper abroad
and stimulates demand for our products.”
The LSU economist said consumer confidence is improving
significantly, but it’s still low.
Farmers who practice conservation tillage may get
through a wet spring a little easier, said Kevin Norton, Louisiana state
conservationist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resource
tillage reduces the number of trips a farmer must make in a field and limits
problems from excessive rainfall.
“It reduces on-farm energy consumption, reduces water
runoff and increases water-holding capacity of the soil,” Norton said.
“Reducing runoff means less sediment and nutrients leaving the field.”
Norton said that although conservation tillage requires
a move to different equipment, farmers and the country in general can
“The more broadly you practice conservation, the more
buffer you have,” he said.
The Ag Outlook meeting is an annual gathering sponsored
by the LSU AgCenter, Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation, Louisiana Department
of Agriculture and Forestry, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural
resources Conservation Service and USDA-Rural Development.