US disaster aid won't cover lost crops in Midwest floods, farmers out millions of dollars

By Chaffin Mitchell, AccuWeather staff writer
April 11, 2019, 2:22:11 PM EDT


Record flooding that has overwhelmed the midwestern United States this spring has taken a significant toll on farmers, and the U.S. disaster aid isn't covering crops lost by the floods.

The federal policy states that the grain damaged from flooded river water has to be destroyed, and according to Reuters there’s nothing the U.S. government can do about the millions of damaged crops under current laws or disaster-aid programs.

Reuters reports this is a problem the USDA has never seen on this scale before because U.S. farmers have never stored so much of their harvests.

Midwestern farmers have been storing their corn and soybeans in unprecedented amounts due to the U.S. and China trade war, according to the BBC.

Winter Weather Flooding

This Monday, March 18, 2019 photo taken by the South Dakota Civil Air Patrol and provided by the Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, shows flooding along the Missouri River in rural Iowa north of Omaha, Neb. (Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management via AP)


Last year, the USDA made $12 billion in aid available to farmers who suffered trade-war losses, but there is no program to cover the catastrophic and largely uninsured stored-crop losses from the widespread flooding.

Nebraska's Gov. Pete Ricketts has estimated the losses to the agricultural sector alone at $1 billion. However, the damage doesn't stop there. States such as Missouri, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Iowa were also greatly impacted.

AccuWeather estimated the total damage and economic loss caused by record-breaking flooding in the midwestern U.S. this spring will total $12.5 billion, based on an analysis of damages already inflicted and those expected by additional flooding, as well as the lingering health effects resulting from flooding and the disease caused by standing water.

(DroneBase via AP)

This Wednesday, March 20, 2019 aerial photo shows flooding near the Platte River in Plattsmouth, Neb., south of Omaha.

(DroneBase via AP)

This Wednesday, March 20, 2019 aerial photo shows flooding near the Platte River in Plattsmouth, Neb., south of Omaha.

(Twitter/Missouri State Highway Patrol)

Water Patrol Troopers assisting a utility company shutting off natural gas lines in flood waters at Craig, Missouri, on Wednesday, March 20.

(Twitter/Missouri State Highway Patrol)

Missouri 111 on the south side of Craig, Missouri, in Holt County. Water being held back by a man-made berm on Wednesday, March 20.

(Twitter/Missouri State Highway Patrol)

Water Patrol Troopers assisting residents of Watson, Missouri, as water comes over levees in the area on Monday, March 18.

(Facebook/Illinois Department of Transportation)

Flooding in Miller City, Illinois, on Tuesday, March 19.

(Facebook/Illinois Department of Transportation)

The Mississippi River is seen overtopping a levee in Miller City, Illinois, on Tuesday, March 19.

(Facebook/Illinois Department of Transportation)

Flooding in Gulfport, Illinois.

(Facebook/Illinois Department of Transportation)

Flooding in Barstow, Illinois.

(AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

Freedom Park, the naval museum featuring aircraft, the USS Marlin SST-2 Submarine and the USS Hazard AM-240 Minesweeper, is flooded by the waters of the Missouri River, in Omaha, Neb., Tuesday, March 19, 2019.

(Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management via AP)

This Monday, March 18, 2019 photo taken by the South Dakota Civil Air Patrol and provided by the Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, shows flooding along the Missouri River in rural Iowa north of Omaha, Neb.

(AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

A neighborhood in Bellevue, Neb., is flooded by waters from the Missouri River, Tuesday, March 19, 2019, with the flooded runway of Offutt AFB seen top left.

(Twitter/ VP Mike Pence)

Vice President Mike Pence touched down in Omaha, Nebraska to survey flood damage, and thank volunteers and emergency personnel.

(Twitter/ VP Mike Pence)

Vice President Mike Pence surveying flood damage in Omaha, Nebraska.

(Twitter/ VP Mike Pence)

Vice President Mike Pence surveying flood damage in Omaha, Nebraska.

(Twitter/ VP Mike Pence)

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence visits the relief shelter at Elkhorn Middle School in Elkhorn, Nebraska, on March 20, 2019.

(AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

Gabe Schmidt, owner of Liquid Trucking, top right, travels by airboat with Glenn Wyles, Mitch Snyder, and Juan Jacobo, as they survey damage from the flood waters of the Platte River, in Plattsmouth, Neb., Sunday, March 17.

(AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

Trino Nuno and his dog Tyson navigate flooded streets in Fremont, Neb., Monday, March 18, 2019. Authorities say flooding from the Platte River and other waterways is so bad that just one highway lane into Fremont remains uncovered, and access to that road is severely restricted.

(AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

A barge is moored along the Missouri River as floodwaters begin to creep into a dredge operation in St Joseph, Mo., Monday, March 18, 2019.

(AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

Volunteers move and cover sandbags in preparation of flooding along the Missouri River in St Joseph, Mo., Monday, March 18, 2019.

(AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

Volunteers fill sandbags in preparation for flooding along the Missouri River in St Joseph, Mo., Monday, March 18, 2019.

(U.S. Senator Ben Sasse)

Residents in Nebraska worked together to set up sandbags amid the historic flooding.

(AP Photo/Holbrook Mohr)

Backwater flooding covers stretches of farm lands near Yazoo City, Miss., Sunday, March 17, 2019, as seen in this aerial photograph.

(Bellevue Police Department)

Floodwaters inundated an intersection in Bellevue, Nebraska.

(Twitter / Offutt AFB)

Much of Offutt Air Force Base in Bellevue, Nebraska, where the US Strategic Command and the 557th Weather Wing and 55th Wing are located, was underwater amid the rising floodwaters.

(Twitter/Offutt AFB)

Much of Offutt Air Force Base in Bellevue, Nebraska, where the US Strategic Command and the 557th Weather Wing and 55th Wing are located, was underwater amid the rising floodwaters.

(Mike Bossman / Omaha Police Department)

Historic flooding in Nebraska left some roads completely washed out and scenes of widespread devastation, dramatic aerial photo showed.

(U.S. Senator Ben Sasse)

Massive chunks of ice and rising floodwaters wreaked havoc in Nebraska over the weekend.

(NASA)

NASA photos taken a year apart show the dramatic extent of the historic flooding devastating parts of Nebraska.

NASA satellite imagery here showing extent of Mississippi River flooding between Mississippi and Lousiana. (NASA.gov)


The flooding erupted in the wake of a historic bomb cyclone, but Midwestern farmers remain on high alert for more rain and storms.

The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reports that above-average precipitation this spring could increase the flood risk across the country.

"The worst is probably over, but additional storms during the month of April may cause smaller-scale flooding. Of greater concern would be if the wet weather were to persist into May," AccuWeather Senior Commodity Forecaster Dale Mohler said.

A rapid snowmelt this spring has caused instances of stored grain being covered with floodwater which must be disposed of, according to a report released by Iowa State University (ISU).

“Flood-damaged grain is adulterated grain because of the potential for many contaminants to enter through the water. This grain should be destroyed, never blended. Contact local Department of Natural Resources officials for the best disposal process in your area. The recent Food Safety Modernization Act has increased public awareness of food and feed related hazards,” the ISU grain experts stated in the report.

On top of losing millions in crops, farmers are facing pricey facility damage. According to ISU experts, grains swell when wet, so bin damage is likely. Wood structures will be hard hit and may retain mold and contaminants.

ISU advises farmers to clean and disinfect facilities and grounds completely, then complete a careful food safety inspection before returning facilities to operation.

Not only does it impact their grain and facilities, but it also delays planting of this years crop, Mohler said.

The Nebraska Farm Bureau has launched relief efforts to aid Nebraska farmers, ranchers, and rural communities suffering from the natural disasters that have impacted the state. The relief efforts include the establishment of a disaster relief fund and launch of an online agriculture disaster exchange portal to connect those in need with those who can help.


Overall the storm in March was much more intense than the farmers expected, and they were not able to prepare in time.

"The storm caused more snow to melt quickly which contributed to a faster runoff and which increased the flooding. It can take days to move the grain to higher ground and there was only a few days' notice," Mohler said.

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"Keep in mind the flooded acreage is only a small percentage of the overall acreage which will be planted this spring. Of bigger concern is grain harvested from last year which was thought to be in a safe place, but in reality it was not because it got flooded out, rendering it useless," Mohler said.

The overall price of grain has been depressed by multiple years of good to excellent crops.

"High supply without a large increase in demand led to a lot of grain being stored. Farmers want to get the highest price they can for their grain, so they have been waiting for higher prices to sell, now some it has been flooded out," Mohler said.

According to Mohler, another weather event that caused the farmers suffer was a drought in the summer of 2012. The drought caused significant corn and soybean losses across the Midwest.

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