Video: Louisiana farmers in trouble

By Anchor
CNBC
updated 11/4/2005 6:39:47 PM ET 2005-11-04T23:39:47

Wednesday, Highway 82 took us over the Intercoastal Waterway, to Cajun country and the Flying J Ranch. Charles Broussard grows rice here — or, he did until Hurricane Rita's storm surge traveled 35 miles and left his soil encrusted with salt.

There is grazing grass on Broussard’s ranch, normally, which his cattle would eat. But, says Broussard, “It's ruined now.”

There’s $1 million in damage just on his property and millions more for other farmers in a state that derives 10 percent of its revenue from agriculture.

Wednesday, farmers in need showed up at the local extension office to get free hay and feed.

“People here are tough and will do everything they can to survive,” says Howard Cormier with the Vermilion Parish Agricultural Center. “If farmers can't cash flow next year, they're not going to be able to get a loan from the bank.”

Locals say the banks are already getting suspicious. This area has been drought-stricken for a year and without any rain this winter to wash away the salt, the land could be useless.

Which means Broussard's heifers can't graze, and will be more expensive to feed.

His son-in-law, Connie, saved them from drowning during the storm.

“We almost got run over by them,” remembers Connie. “We opened the gate and got out of the way.”

The cattle camped out on the farm's levee system — levees that, ironically, stopped the surge from devastating their neighbors to the north.

“You'd think I am protected. But evidently not for Rita,” says Broussard.

Despite his troubles, Broussard has adopted a stray cat from the storm. She lives in the garage. Her name? Rita.

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