Report from the Midwest: Flooding, Farming, and Famine

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Report from the Midwest: Flooding, Farming, and Famine

By: Pat Austin

SHREVE­PORT – The
flood­wa­ters along the Arkansas River, the Mis­souri, and the Mis­sis­sippi, are
reced­ing but the dam­age is done.

We have just returned from a two-​week trek through the Mid­west
that took us through Fort Smith, Arkansas, Mis­souri, and Iowa, and what we saw
along the rivers and in the heart­land is heart­break­ing and troublesome.

In Louisiana, the open­ing of the Mor­ganza spill­way has been post­poned
indef­i­nitely
as the com­bi­na­tion of mul­ti­ple
levee breaks
upriver in Mis­souri and a lower-​than-​predicted rain­fall amount
eased con­cerns along the Lower Mis­sis­sippi.
The river is expected
to con­tinue falling
through the week. This is good news to the farm­ers that
have crops planted that would have been inun­dated and lost once the spill­way
was opened.

That is the only bright spot in the flood­ing story.

The Arkansas River around Van Buren and Fort Smith has
fallen sig­nif­i­cantly
but what has been left behind is heart­break­ing. In Fort Smith you see ServPro trucks
every­where as the flood cleanup begins and peo­ple see what can be sal­vaged from
their homes. We drove west­bound on High­way 64, over the Arkansas River into
Okla­homa and in Roland, OK, all we could see was dev­as­tated and ruined crop
land.

One farmer was out in his wheat fields and it looked like he
was try­ing to sal­vage what he could. We drove for about three miles into Okla­homa
and saw noth­ing but dev­as­ta­tion. The stock­yards at Roland had flooded, the
water push­ing a cyclone fence almost all the way down, leaves, sticks, sand,
and debris caught in the links. The high­way
west­bound, back into Arkansas, had been dam­aged so we had to detour through
more ruined farms and dam­aged roads to get back over the bridge.

We talked to so many peo­ple whose homes had been dam­aged or
who were oth­er­wise impacted by the floods.

In Iowa, evi­dence of the spring’s heavy rains is man­i­fest in
acres of unplanted crop land. Many of
the corn fields still have last year’s stalks, not yet plowed under for this
year’s plant­ing. While some may be in CRP, (crop rota­tion), there are still
plenty of fields that have not yet been planted. Those who were lucky enough to get their corn
in the ground either have a later-​than-​usual crop com­ing up or they have lost
it to the rains.

Accord­ing
to the USDA
, as of June 16, farm­ers had planted 83% of the corn crop, well
below the five-​year aver­age of 99%, and this late start com­pounds poten­tial
prob­lems later in the year.

This sort of thing is enough to dev­as­tate smaller farm­ers
who may not be able to con­tinue to farm after such losses, and more rain is expected
across Iowa this week, effec­tively clos­ing the plant­ing win­dow for many farmers.

The floods this year don’t just affect the farm­ers and those
liv­ing along the rivers; we can all expect to face higher food and fuel prices
down the road. All in all, it’s a pretty
grim outlook.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreve­port and is the author of Cane River Bohemia. Fol­low her on Insta­gram @patbecker25 and Twit­ter @paustin110.

By:  Pat Austin 

SHREVEPORT —  The floodwaters along the Arkansas River, the Missouri, and the Mississippi, are receding but the damage is done.

We have just returned from a two-week trek through the Midwest that took us through Fort Smith, Arkansas, Missouri, and Iowa, and what we saw along the rivers and in the heartland is heartbreaking and troublesome.

In Louisiana, the opening of the Morganza spillway has been postponed indefinitely as the combination of multiple levee breaks upriver in Missouri and a lower-than-predicted rainfall amount eased concerns along the Lower Mississippi.  The river is expected to continue falling through the week. This is good news to the farmers that have crops planted that would have been inundated and lost once the spillway was opened. 

That is the only bright spot in the flooding story.

The Arkansas River around Van Buren and Fort Smith has fallen significantly but what has been left behind is heartbreaking.  In Fort Smith you see ServPro trucks everywhere as the flood cleanup begins and people see what can be salvaged from their homes. We drove westbound on Highway 64, over the Arkansas River into Oklahoma and in Roland, OK, all we could see was devastated and ruined crop land. 

One farmer was out in his wheat fields and it looked like he was trying to salvage what he could. We drove for about three miles into Oklahoma and saw nothing but devastation. The stockyards at Roland had flooded, the water pushing a cyclone fence almost all the way down, leaves, sticks, sand, and debris caught in the links.  The highway westbound, back into Arkansas, had been damaged so we had to detour through more ruined farms and damaged roads to get back over the bridge. 

We talked to so many people whose homes had been damaged or who were otherwise impacted by the floods.

In Iowa, evidence of the spring’s heavy rains is manifest in acres of unplanted crop land.  Many of the corn fields still have last year’s stalks, not yet plowed under for this year’s planting. While some may be in CRP, (crop rotation), there are still plenty of fields that have not yet been planted.  Those who were lucky enough to get their corn in the ground either have a later-than-usual crop coming up or they have lost it to the rains.

According to the USDA, as of June 16, farmers had planted 83% of the corn crop, well below the five-year average of 99%, and this late start compounds potential problems later in the year. 

This sort of thing is enough to devastate smaller farmers who may not be able to continue to farm after such losses, and more rain is expected across Iowa this week, effectively closing the planting window for many farmers.

The floods this year don’t just affect the farmers and those living along the rivers; we can all expect to face higher food and fuel prices down the road.  All in all, it’s a pretty grim outlook.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and is the author of Cane River Bohemia. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.