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article imageExtent of the damage from Midwest floods could top $3 billion

By Karen Graham     Mar 30, 2019 in Environment
At least 1 million acres (405,000 hectares) of U.S. farmland were flooded after the “bomb cyclone” storm left wide swaths of nine major grain producing states under water this month.
Farms from the Dakotas to Missouri and beyond have been under water for a week or more and the situation is likely to delay the planting season, according to Reuters.
The torrential snows and rains hit the Midwest just a few weeks before spring planting season was to start, and will likely reduce corn, wheat and soy production this year. “There are thousands of acres that won’t be able to be planted,” Ryan Sonderup, 36, of Fullerton, Nebraska, who has been farming for 18 years, said in a recent interview.
“If we had straight sunshine now until May and June, maybe it can be done, but I don’t see how that soil gets back with expected rainfall.”
However, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released data on Friday showing that the country has massive supplies of both corn and soybeans in storage bins around the country. The agency's data showed domestic corn supplies as of March 1 at 8.605 billion bushels, 2.716 billion bushels of soybeans, and 1.591 billion bushels of wheat, the second-biggest in 31 years.
The USDA said farmers planned to boost their corn plantings by 4.1 percent but severe flooding in the U.S. Midwest may curtail final acreage. The government said farmers planned to seed 92.792 million acres of corn and 84.617 million acres of soybeans this spring. But these figures were submitted during the first two weeks of March.
The extent of the damage
First of all, the flooding is still not over. The floodwaters are still heading south and there is more to come from melting snow in the north and a rainy spring weather forecast. With flood damage already estimated to be in excess of $3 billion, a lot is still unknown.
Livestock losses are still unknown. Cattle carcasses are still washing up along riverbanks in Nebraska, and in Iowa, flooded hog barns are still inaccessible.
As the water in some areas has receded, farmers are left with fields strewn with debris, including silt, sand and old tires. Billions of dollars in crops stored in silos are now filled with unusable grain.
Justin Mensik is a fifth-generation farmer of corn and soybeans in Morse Bluff, Nebraska. He says the first thing on his list would be rebuilding the roads. Then farmers will need to bring in fertilizer trucks and then test the soil before seeding.
The flood “left a lot of silt and sand and mud in our fields, now we’re not too sure if we’re going to be able to get a good crop this year with all the new mud and junk that’s just laying here,” Mensik told Reuters.
Farmers are already struggling
The flooding comes at a bad time for farmers who are already struggling financially from years of low commodity prices and the more recent trade war with China. The American Farm Bureau estimates Midwestern farm bankruptcies were up 19 percent in 2018 from 2017, the highest level in 10 years.
Now, farmers are not only dealing with the loss of physical assets but the very good chance they will not even get a spring crop in the ground this year. There is crop insurance with provisions for prevented-planting that covers 55 to 60 percent of revenue when planting is prevented.
Crop insurance also has guidelines that must be followed. This year, For example, Iowa farmers must plant corn by May 31 and soybeans by June 15 in order to be fully covered. And of course, there are emergency loans through the USDA's Farm Service Agency (FSA).
More about Midwest, bomb cyclone, $3 billion, crop losses, Livestock
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