Agribusiness Report: Iowa Leaders Check Out Farm Flood Damage

Published: Apr. 3, 2019 at 6:28 AM CDT
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The flooding in Southwest Iowa and Nebraska along the Missouri River is estimated to cost $3 billion and rural towns and farmers are taking the brunt.

On Friday, USDA Under Secretary Bill Northey, Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, and Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig, headed over to speak to impacted communities and to take a look at farms devastated by the flood.

"The more you think about it, it becomes overwhelming. You're out of your element." Says Don Rief, a Pottawattamie County Farmer, "I hope everyone can realize the financial loss we have coming."

Don and his brother Dale farm near the Missouri River, on land still feeling the effects of major flooding, "Infrastructure that's been in place since I was a kid and stuff that I've done since I've been active in farming. So much of it's torn apart and ruined. I don't know if we'll be able to come back with the infrastructure."

Water in this area crested at above 30 feet.

USDA Under Secretary Bill Northey says, "You know, you see a lot from the ground, certainly hear a lot when you talk to folks. Feel the emotion and challenge that they have. Get up in the air, and be able to look and you see a lot of water, a lot of damage. Grain bins, that the grain is lost."

They saw the damage from a helicopter flyby. Then on the ground they toured Don's farm.

Iowa Ag Secretary Mike Naig says, "Trying to understand their needs, and their ideas about what needs to happen next. But trying to tell them again that we understand that recovery will not be over next week, or next month. It's going to take months, maybe even a couple years before we get back to where these folks want to be."

Don says, "They're here, and taking notice and seeing it for themselves. Maybe they can do their part at the federal level. And maybe the USDA can step up and they'll have funds to rescue some guys that are in trouble. That's my hope."

Normally farmers have four to seven days of notice before a flood, but with levee breaks and ice jams, some farmers only had 24 hours to prepare. Cattle and equipment had to be saved so ultimately it was grain that had to be left behind. In the floodwater, it expanded and busted out.

Naig says, "This damaged stored grain is not covered under any current program or any disaster assistance and so is there something that could be done there to help out some of these folks who are, it's a total loss."

Northey says, "Well, we're trying to make sure there's financial resources in this programs that farmers depend on and Congress is looking at another disaster bill that would refund some of pool of dollars to be able to work with."

But Don is concerned about the future, he thinks there are many issues that contribute to flooding, but river control needs to be addressed by the federal government.

"They have a lot of recreation dollars up north and it's peanuts compared to what's getting lost down south here it might make $100 million in South Dakota on the recreation and their wildlife when Iowa and Nebraska, we're losing $3 billion." Don says, "They're trying to do too much with this river, and people are losing their lives and their livelihoods. They've got the wrong priorities."