As I continue to watch these television reports of flooded areas of the Mississippi River in the upper Midwest, I am reminded of what happened just two years ago here in the Mid-South. And I am hopeful that I won’t see what many of us experienced during that forgettable spring. If you lived here in Memphis, it’s hard to forget how the Mississippi River went over its banks and flooded farmland in Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee and Mississippi. Some people called it a “100-year flood,” but maybe it was premature to describe it that way. Regardless of the adjectives used, it was a difficult time for farmers who had acreage near Ole Man River. Here we are two years later, and suddenly we’re seeing a repeat of that unforgettable spring.
If we learned anything about that flood of 2011, it’s that whatever happens in the upper Midwest eventually makes it way south. Sooner or later, we will probably see tributaries of the Mississippi overflow their banks. Let’s just hope that the severity of the floods won’t cause a major backup into these smaller rivers. Two years ago, I recall visiting Brian McDaniel, a cotton farmer near Forrest City, Ark. He saw his acreage flooded in early May, and his situation looked hopeless at that point. He had already forward contracted his crop, and as he surveyed his acreage in May, his prospects looked bleak.
But, then, something remarkable happened. The water began to recede, and Brian decided to roll the dice. He figured that he had to replant during that first week of June and hope that he could salvage something out of his crop. Some of his neighbors thought he was crazy, but Brian just kept going forward. When I visited him in mid-July, I couldn’t believe what I saw. Due to some hot temperatures in June and early July, the late-planted crop had made a miraculous comeback. Call it divine intervention or just a plain old miracle.
Eventually, Brian harvested a pretty good crop in the fall and was able to survive. This story proved one thing to me. Even recordbreaking floods can’t snuff out the hopes of a farmer who strategically finds a way to deal with such a disaster. Sometimes happy endings do occur after a flood or any other kind of natural disaster. Nobody is saying that the floods north of Memphis will eventually resemble what we saw in 2011. But, if they do, don’t be surprised if farmers find a way to navigate their way toward delivering a crop in the fall.
It’s been done before, and it can happen again.