As a third generation farmer, Kyle Dill of Crooked Bayou Planting Company has seen a lot of droughts. But this year stands out. "We lost hope early. I mean it was just...there was no hope, at all, to recover from it." Dill echoes many other Ark-La-Tex farmers this year, who have watched their crops suffer through excessive temperatures and little rainfall.
Now the U.S. Department of Agriculture is making this year an official "disaster" by declaring all Louisiana parishes agricultural disaster areas. An early declaration in June applied to most Texas counties, and included Caddo Parish because of its proximity to Texas. This new announcement means farmers throughout Louisiana and Southwest Arkansas will also have access to low-interest government loans.
However, Dill says the loans aren't always the best way to help farmers when times are tough. "By the time you get approved for the loan and actually get the money, it'll probably be already into your 2012 crop year," he says. "It's really hard to get financing when you need it."
He suggests the government could help more by providing more funding to the LSU AgCenter, which has seen its budget slashed this year. "As bad as this year was, there's no forecast we're gonna have a different year," he adds, saying farmers need the access to information and education. "This could go on for decades."