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Miss. Farm 'Looks Like A 12,000 Acre Lake'

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Miss. Farm 'Looks Like A 12,000 Acre Lake'

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John Michael Pillow, a farmer in Yazoo City, Miss., talks to Renee Montagne about the flooding along the Mississippi River. Most of his farm is submerged under 10 feet of water.


And let's turn now to another disaster, this one not made by man. We've been following the flooding caused by the historic rise of the Mississippi River. Last week we reached farmer John Michael Pillow, who told us he was looking out on his land and it was bone-dry. Now that farm is almost entirely under water. It's near the Yazoo River, a tributary that flows into the Mississippi. These days the big river's food waters are flowing back up the Yazoo and overtopping levees.

We got a hold of John Michael Pillow again on his cell phone. Thank you for joining us.

Mr. JOHN MICHAEL PILLOW (Farmer): Thank you, Renee.

MONTAGNE: And describe for us what it looks like there on your land and what has happened there since well(ph), since last week.

Mr. PILLOW: Saturday - we we've kind of got a small drainage district levee on the east side of the Yazoo River, and Saturday we started being overtopped. Within probably 48 hours we half of our place covered and in probably another 56 hours pretty much the entire place was covered.

MONTAGNE: And when you say covered, how deep is the water?

Mr. PILLOW: Anywhere from six inches to probably 10 feet.

MONTAGNE: Almost like a lake.

Mr. PILLOW: Yeah, yeah. And you can see some of the corn, but it's really just, looks like a 12,000-acre lake.

MONTAGNE: So did everyone who did need to get out get out in time?

Mr. PILLOW: From what I'm aware of, yes. Most people did. The ironic thing is we had, you know, for a week there was just this flurry of activity - tractors moving up and down the road, you know, trailers hauling furniture everywhere. And we had a week of just waiting. And you know, Renee, we've been working since last year getting the land prepared for this year - planting crops in March and first part of April, and then nurturing the crops and then putting fertilizer out to bring the crops along.

And then just to watch it all go away in three or four days is pretty difficult to watch.

MONTAGNE: Can you get that back? When you say you've lost everything, will there be any land to plant on this season once the floodwaters recede?

Mr. PILLOW: I surely hope so. There are (unintelligible) there's a crop we can plant, and that's kind of going to be our ace in the hole, so to speak, because farmers are required by the government and by most of our lending agents to take crop insurance out. But the crop insurance only covers about 75 percent of our costs.

You know, you open the Wall Street Journal and commodity prices are booming and, you know, farmers are going to be in great shape this year. Well, we aren't. I mean, it's going to be hard because this is the year that we have been waiting for for 20 years, because we could kind of build a cushion, cash flow-wise, to - just to kind of take a little financial pressure off and...

MONTAGNE: Everything was looking good.

Mr. PILLOW: After we got through planting everything, I told my wife that night when we got through planning, I said, you know, barring some just natural disaster, I'm excited about this year. You know, financially we're going to just finally be in the shape that I would kind of would like us to be in. You know, we're going to have a good year. And never say never.

MONTAGNE: Yeah. You know, back when - when you said, you know, barring a natural disaster, did you knock on wood?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. PILLOW: I didn't.

MONTAGNE: Just wondering.

Mr. PILLOW: Yeah, no. But, you know, Renee, I put my faith in God. I know that's kind of thrown around sometimes very casually, but I'm kind of a micromanager and I worry about every little detail that's going on our farm. And this is too big for me to handle. This is too big for me to worry about. So rather than knocking on wood, you'll have to trust in a benevolent God that loves us.

MONTAGNE: Thank you very much for sharing your story with us.

Mr. PILLOW: You're very welcome.

MONTAGNE: John Michael Pillow, speaking to us from his cell phone, standing on one of the few dry spots of his flooded farm in Yazoo City.

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