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.