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RIPLEY, Tenn. — Flooding along Mississippi River bottomland in West Tennessee is the worst in 20 years, a University of Tennessee agricultural leader said Monday.

“It was almost this bad in 1986, but they tell me this one is at least equal to the flood they had here in ’73,” Gerry Parker said.

“I have experienced about five of these floods, and all are different. But this one is the worst I know about.”

Parker said about 40,000 acres of Lauderdale County cotton is flooded, whereas the flood two years ago covered 7,500 to 10,000 acres of crops in the county.

“If the river’s back down to flood stage by June 15, we could possibly have 5,000 to 10,000 of these acres currently under water ready to plant about that time,” Parker said. “But we’re talking about cropland that’s under 8 feet to 10 feet of water.”

Dr. Charles Farmer, UT agricultural economist in Knoxville, said there’s not enough time left in the season to replant cotton. Farmers are likely to replant in soybeans, he said.

“Other than the flooded areas, our cotton crop is in pretty good condition,” Farmer said. “We’re probably looking at the most (cotton) acreage in Tennessee since 1954.”

Farmers are expected to receive a good price for their cotton because of growing world-wide demand.

U.S. Department of Agriculture officials say cotton prices are at their highest level since the Civil War. Cotton exports this year are expected to reach $4 billion, compared with $2.3 billion in fiscal year 1994, USDA said.

Jess Barr, cotton economist in Mobile, Ala., said the southeastern states are expected to have 3.15 million acres in cotton this year, a 45 percent regional increase over last year.

Contact: Dr. Charles Farmer (615-974-7271, William G. Parker (901-635-9551)