VICKSBURG -- Gambling on the river has a different meaning to farmers with thousands of crop acres under water for the fourth time in five years. Spring planters optimistically thought, "What are the odds?" Now they know -- 100 percent.
The Mississippi River peaked in Vicksburg at 47 feet on June 12 -- 4 feet above flood stage -- its highest level in 12 years.
The 1995 flood is topping 1994 levels by 1 foot and almost six weeks later than last year's crest date.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Depressed cattle prices are having a similar effect on producers. As prices reach their lowest levels since January 1987, most market watchers expect little relief until the national herd size starts decreasing around 1997.
Dr. Charlie Forrest, extension agricultural economist at Mississippi State University, said prices for the best 400 to 500 pound steers averaged in the low $70s per hundredweight during May. May 1995 prices are about 20 percent below year-ago figures.
VERONA, Miss. -- Spring rains have given all Mississippi farmers a challenge to overcome. But untimely rains causing a poor quality crop could mean a loss of profits for growers and costly supplements for livestock owners next winter.
Timing is important in hay production -- from fertilizing before moderate rainfall to cutting when the crop is mature to harvesting before rains reduce nutrients.
Dr. Pat Bagley, head of the North Mississippi Research and Extension Center in Verona, said rains are making the first cutting of hay a challenge.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Rains and cool temperatures have delayed plantings for some Mississippi crops. Soybean growers, who have turned to earlier planting in recent years, may not have the luxury to take full advantage of this opportunity if conditions continue.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Planting season is well underway, and Mississippi's weather conditions in 1995 have been among the best in recent years.
"The best thing this year is that the river hasn't been the problem it was in the last couple of years," said Don Bales, Wilkinson County agent. "The bottomland (near the river) is in good shape except for some cotton acres that had to be replanted after a heavy rain around April 11."
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- An untimely freeze in leading wheat-producing states and ideal weather in Mississippi are encouraging signs for the state's wheat growers.
Recent rains provided about 1 to 3 inches of rain to help the wheat crop toward harvest near June 1. With little to zero disease problems thus far, growers will watch extra closely after the rains and hope for drying conditions.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Economists with the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced their crop predictions Friday in the planting intentions report, but Mother Nature and farmers will get the final word.
Dr. Alan Blaine, extension agronomist at Mississippi State University, said although there were no major surprises in the acreage estimates, actual plantings will hinge on the weather.
"Weather always influences crop acreages. Delayed plantings because of rain will force farmers to second choice crops with later planting dates," Blaine said.