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Global ag view: Farms devastated by floods in US Midwest since mid-March

Farmers in the US Midwest have been devastated by crop and livestock losses after major flooding since mid-March onwards.

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Global ag view: Farms devastated by floods in US Midwest since mid-March

A perfect storm of heavy snowfall in February and rain in March hit the Missouri river and its tributaries, with farmers across the US Corn Belt affected.

 

In Nebraska, 77 of its 93 counties declared an emergency due to the flooding, with Governor Pete Ricketts calling it the most widespread disaster in the state’s history.

 

Initial damage estimates include $439 million (£335.9m) in infrastructure damage, $85m (£65m) in damage to private homes and businesses, $400m (£306m) in losses to Nebraska’s cow-calf (suckler) sector and $440m (£336.6m) in losses to the state’s crop producers.

 

Challenges

 

Farmers were looking ahead to the spring and the additional challenges flooding will bring when planting.

 

Chad Christianson, who grows wheat in Nebraska, had several fields affected by flooding.

 

He said: “It dumped a bunch of silt and trash on those fields. It washed away a pivot stop and took out 50 feet of the field along with the creek.

 

“If I had not had the pivot walked out, it would have been lost too.”


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However, he said the damage to rural highways would likely have the biggest effect, as some farmers’ fields were only accessible by those roads.

 

He said: “First, they are going to have to inspect all the bridges. But the gravel roads are probably goingto be last, because the highway system has to be up and running.”

 

He added they had not yet hit the spring rains and heavy rain this spring meant ‘it could be really ugly again, real fast’.

 

He said: “Farmers deal with enough already let alone a natural disaster. This spring, if Mother Nature is not gentle to us, it is going to make things even worse.”

 

And there were warnings there could be worse yet to come.

 

Farmers were reeling after being told federal disaster aid will not cover all of their losses, specifically losses from grain stored in bins damaged by floodwater, but Governors in Iowa were looking to change United States Department of Agriculture rules.

 

For farmers with grain stored in bins affected by flooding, which cannot be sold or fed, grain could be applied to the land. In Iowa, industry bodies suggested it was worth considering as the fertiliser nutrient value would help offset costs for producing the next corn or soyabean crop.

 

More flooding could be on the way, as snow begins to melt on the Mississippi river and the damage to the Missouri could lead to more flooding.

 

In the Dakotas, flooding had not yet been as bad, but melting snow was ‘filling fields’ in North Dakota. Iowa State University Extension economist Chad Hart said it would now not take as big a rain event to create problems.

 

A wet spring was forecast, which could push more farmers towards growing soyabeans and farmers would be watching markets, including whether the US and China can settle their trade dispute.

 

Mr Hart said: “It will take time to see if commodity prices might climb as a result of flooding in the Midwest.

 

But he doubted it would affect corn and soyabean prices.

 

He added: “The flooding is a huge personal tragedy for a number of farmers but, so far, the flooding is not big enough to have a market impact.”

 

■ This report was by the team at US-based Farm Progress.

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