Jeff Davis

Jun 10, 2011 12:09 AM by Shawn Kline

Finally some rain for rice farms; drought continues

Another round of showers Thursday has some farmers jumping for joy and others even believing some old cajun folklore.
June 8th was officially St. Medard's day. Legend has it if it rains on the eighth of June, there will be a "wet harvest," but even with these brief showers, drought conditions continue for rice farmers.

Clarence Berken of Jeff Davis Parish hasn't seen a good rain in months.

"To have this happen, it's a downer," Berken said of the drought. "It's something that weighs on everybody, it weighs on the communities down here because this is our livelihood, this is what we do."

Farmers like Berken have been forced to use rising levels of salt water to keep his crops alive. With so much money already invested, it's a move he says he has to take.

"We're going ahead and taking a risk." He says, "trying to keep water on it."

The use of salt water is keeping some rice fields green for now but it can be damaging in the long term. LSU AgCenter agent Johnny Saichuk says it could even hamper yields for years to come.
Berken decided not to water his younger rice fields for that same reason.

"If this (drought) happens, there will be a bunch of farmers that won't be here next year." Saichuk says, "they won't have a choice whether they want to or not."

Saichuk says even with constant downpours, it could take days or even weeks to undo the damage.

"It's going to take 10-inches of rain over the next ten days to really give us some more fresh water supply," Saichuk said.

Keeping just a few inches of water in the rice field is costing some farmers thousands of dollars a day. At that rate, Berken says he'll believe anything- even cajun folklore if it provides any amount of rain.



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