Community Spotlight: Abbeville, Louisiana

September 1, 2007

Sept. 24 marks the two-year anniversary of the “big flood” in Abbeville, Louisiana.

That’s when Hurricane Rita brought an unprecedented squall that would change the small rice-farming town forever.  Overnight, farmers in Abbeville lost homes, farm equipment and more than half of the town’s rice acres.

Ross Hebert, a grower of nine years, said the destruction was unlike anything he’d ever seen.

He lost grain when his bins flooded.  He lost 500 of the 800 acres he owns to salt saturation, which makes the ground un-farmable.  All told, the “big flood” had cost him more than $100,000 by year’s end—and that doesn’t even take into consideration the money he lost in 2006 because of Rita’s residual effect.

Believe it or not, Hebert was one of the lucky ones.

Many of the town’s farmers faced bankruptcy and were forced out of the business.  And more than a few of Hebert’s neighbors and friends who lived in Abbeville for generations left the community because they couldn’t afford to rebuild.

“Our community became a ghost town overnight,” explained David LaCour, a fourth generation farmer who farms just a few miles from Hebert.

LaCour also lost his livelihood to the more than three feet of standing salt water on his property.

Times have improved, but LaCour explains that he faces new challenges today that are slowing the rebuilding process—namely skyrocketing fertilizer and fuel prices.

“In this period of uncertainty, we desperately need some stability,” LaCour said, “and Congress can make that happen.  Passing a strong 2007 farm bill soon would go a long way.”

Hebert, LaCour, and the remaining farmers of Abbeville are big supporters of the farm bill passed by the House of Representatives in July.  They are hopeful that the Senate will soon follow suit.