Flooding leads to hundreds of millions of dollars in Iowa agriculture damages

Published: Mar. 23, 2019 at 6:34 PM CDT
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Other than various washed out roads, eastern Iowa was left largely untouched by this most recent round of flooding.

That pales in comparison to damage in western Iowa and Nebraska.

President Donald Trump has approved disaster declarations for 56 of Iowa's 99 counties.

In a letter to the President requesting these declarations, Governor Kim Reynolds said the state has taken a nearly $1.6 billion hit from flooding along the Missouri River. About $216 million of that was in the agriculture industry.

Senator Joni Ernst visited the counties affected by the flooding earlier this week and joined Reynolds in requesting those declarations.

"In Fremont County, which is the far, far southwest county in our state, they have about $100 million in agricultural losses, between livestock and grain," she said.

Linn County farmer John Airy said most of that grain will not be salvageable.

"That river water's dirty because you're going to have your municipal sewage system dumping in that and God knows what else, and that corn and those beans are not fit for the food system once they've been contaminated," he said.

He said some farmers might be able to recoup this season, but the ones hit hard probably will not.

"You get to the end of April, the planters are really rolling in Iowa," he said. "So between now and then, to be able to clean those fields up, get all the debris off, move the sand deposits, that's going to be pretty tough."

Among the biggest losses, Airy believes, will be to cattle farms.

"A lot of times, your pastures are your flood-prone areas, so the water's going to run into there," he said. "If there's nowhere for the calves to go, they're going to be victims in a hurry."

Airy said it is possible that this agricultural damage could affect prices for consumers, but he doesn't believe it will. Even if that happens, he said he wouldn't think the effect would be very large.

"The food system in this country is so big and so dynamic. I don't think you're going to see a spot shortage of meat or anything like that," he said.

Both Airy and Ernst said they'll be keeping a close eye on the devastation.

"It is possible with the snow melt that we could see other losses in other areas of the state as well," Ernst said.

"Those poor people, they're going to be cleaning up for a while," Airy said.

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