TUNICA, MS (Gray DC) - As recovery from Mississippi River flooding continues, some farmers are struggling with the reality of a devastating year. In the middle of harvest, one Mississippi community has a bleak forecast, with nature and politics bringing an unforgiving storm.
Tunica, MS is a farming town of just over 1000 people where cotton is king. In 2019, the Mississippi River came for the throne. Tunica’s Mayor Chuck Cariker says a levee prevented catastrophe.
“Oh man if this hill wasn’t here we’d have water all the way back in the town,” said Cariker.
The levee did its job, but flood water still managed to get through, bubbling up from below. The Mayor’s farm, his primary source of income, escaped largely unscathed. But the mayor feels for his neighbors, some of whom couldn’t plant this year because of the water.
“It puts a lot of stress on you,” said Cariker.
The mayor says impacted farmers in Tunica are banking on crop insurance, if they have it, to help them break even. He says they can also go through the US Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency to tap into several disaster assistance programs.
“You gotta believe that you’re going to handle it and it’s going to be fine,” said Cariker.
Cariker says relief programs can help after damage is done, but he sees rain and floods getting worse due to a changing climate. Steve Cochran from the Environmental Defense Fund says communities along the river need to take big action, and swiftly, if they want to get ahead of the larger problem.
“Living with climate change costs too much money. We got to get smart about that,” said Cochran.
Cochran thinks action can be taken immediately to help prevent catastrophic flooding in these communities. He suggests expanding flood plains along the river, moving levees back and letting the river spread out. Cochran admits tackling climate issues is a daunting task, but he says serious discussions need to take place now, no matter how difficult.
“The idea that we just can’t do these big things is just not true,” said Cochran.
Cochran and Mayor Cariker accept the great Mississippi will inevitably unleash its wrath in the years to come.
Mayor Cariker says the historic flooding combined with trade uncertainty is testing the tolerance of farmers. While the Trump administration stands firm in its trade negotiation tactics, trade disputes with China, the chief buyer of his soybeans, have him in a tight spot.
“When agriculture suffers, so does the guy in the grocery store, so does the guy in the dry goods store, in the fuel business,” said Cariker.
Cariker’s crop consists of soybeans, rice and corn. His soybean product is hit particularly hard by the trade uncertainty and is relying on trade deals to improve prices over the coming years.
President Trump said in a recent tweet, “We are winning, and we will win. They should not have broken the deal we had with them. Happy Birthday China!” He sent the tweet on the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China.