America’s rice crop threatened by Louisiana flooding, Arkansas rain

ST. AMANT, La.High water in Louisiana and Arkansas has put a damper on the nation’s rice harvest.

While much of Louisiana’s crop was in before record floods this month, Arkansas farmers had just started harvesting before rainy weather began last weekend.

So far, the biggest losers are farmers whose fields are inundated and may not be able to harvest. Those who do succeed will find slightly higher prices. But economists say that the weather isn’t bad enough to push up consumer prices for food rice, or for beer and cereal that use rice as an ingredient.

Arkansas produces half the nation’s rice, while Louisiana produces about 15 percent. Farmers fear that continued bad weather, or a Gulf Coast hurricane, could worsen problems before the rest of the crop is brought in.

Flood-weary residents cleaned out houses Saturday as search parties went door to door looking for survivors or bodies trapped by flooding so powerful in some cases it disturbed the dead and sent caskets floating from cemeteries.

At least 13 people died in the flooding that swept through partsof southern Louisiana after torrential rains lashed the region. An estimated 60,000 homes have been damaged, and 102,000 people have registered for federal assistance so far.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said Sunday people around the U.S. are just starting to pay attention to the extent of flooding that killed at least 13 people in the state.

Edwards told CNN’s “State of the Nation” on Sunday that the disaster has received less attention because it wasn’t a hurricane or named storm.

Edwards, a Democrat who took office this year, said he suggested to President Barack Obama and presidential adviser Valerie Jarrett that they delay a trip to Louisiana until the initial disaster response was over and recovery efforts had started.

Obama is traveling to Baton Rouge on Tuesday.

As waters are receding, residents are faced with mud-caked homes so thoroughly soaked that mold is a top concern.

“It’s much worse than I expected,” said Sheila Siener. “The water, the dirt, the smell. Water in the cabinets. Everything’s filthy. I’ve never been through a flood, so I really didn’t know.”

In other areas the water is still high enough to cause concern. In Lake Arthur, pumps and sandbags were keeping floodwaters out of the town of 2,700 in southwest Louisiana. But authorities said there’s still too much danger for people to return.

In a uniquely Louisiana problem, some families are also trying to rebury relatives whose caskets were unearthed by the floods.

At least 15 cemeteries across seven parishes have had disruptions, the Louisiana Department of Health reported Saturday, although they don’t yet have an estimate of how many graves, tombs and vaults have been damaged.

The department is reaching out to affected parishes to do assessments. In most cases, the disinterred caskets and vaults are still within the territory of the cemetery, although one casket ended up in a nearby backyard. In one case, a local funeral home has already recovered and re-interred the small number of caskets that surfaced.

Willie Brooks III said Saturday that he went earlier in the week to see his grandmother’s grave at the Plainview Cemetery in Denham Springs, after hearing on social media that one woman said her mom’s vault was gone.

“The vault was completely gone,” Brooks said. Instead there was just a hole where his grandmother’s vault used to be. “It could be down the street. It could be in the Amite River. I don’t know.”

Brooks was born and raised in Louisiana and he’s heard of this happening before but never to this extent: “It’s like a horror movie.”

In other areas the search for the living goes on.

Driving through neighborhoods where pools of water still stand outside and families are ripping out carpets and carrying water-logged sofas to the curb, the searchers are looking for houses with little activity.

In many areas the water is still so high that people are rowing boats out to their houses to see what the situation is like inside.