Storm damage to cane less than first feared, local ag official reports

Deidre Cruse

Sugar cane farmers are getting yields of 33 tons an acre, despite some damage from hurricanes Gustav and Ike, Assistant County Agent Shannon P. Dietz told the Iberville Parish Council last week.

“The early predictions were 34 to 35 tons an acre, so it’s not off the mark very much,” he said. “...It’s a really decent number.”

Some local cane farmers took advantage of a new variety of cane developed at the research station at St. Gabriel after Hurricane Katrina that can “stand back up” after being blown over by a storm, Dietz said.

“It’s a fairly new variety, so it’s probably not used by the majority of farmers,” he said, adding that the new variety had passed its first true test from the winds of Hurricane Gustav.

Cane farmers also have benefited from excellent weather during harvest season, Dietz said. He said the harvest was 25 percent complete in mid-November, and should be finished by the end of the year.

But, he said, farmers also have been beset by rising production costs – high diesel prices and prices of liquid fertilizer that have been rising exponentially.

Three years ago, he said, cane farmers paid about $90 a ton for liquid fertilizer. Last year, the price rose to $250 a ton, and this year, to $350 a ton, he said. Estimates are that the fertilizer might go as high as $650 to $700 a ton next year.

Dietz said he has seen no reports on what increased farm costs would mean for sugar consumers, but said “I imagine there would be a small increase.”

Dietz, making his annual report to the Parish Council, also noted that the LSU AgCenter is finishing up its celebration of 100 years of 4-H in Louisiana.Some 500 young people participate in the clubs in Iberville Parish, he said.

He noted that three of the first inductees into the 4-H Hall of Fame are from Iberville Parish – Gary J. Hebert Sr. Ccil Phillip Ramagos Sr. and Ivory Lee Williams. The hall of fame is located in Mansura, the site of the state’s first 4-H club, Dietz said.

The local extension service staff provides a number of services to farmer, gardeners and consumers.

Dietz said there is extensive information posted at www.lsuagcenter.com/iberville.