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Midwest Flooding Hits U.S. Agriculture Production Capacity, Food Supply in Major Way

April 2, 2019 (EIRNS)—The Upper Missouri-Mississippi River Basins flooding is rightly called “historic,” compared to the terrible episodes in the region over the past couple centuries. The cause for the damage is not bad luck or “climate change,” but the lack of infrastructure which had been proposed, specifically since the 1944 “Pick-Sloan” plan for integrated water management throughout the region, and was never built. Nor was the plan fully built for the Upper Mississippi infrastructure; and the Upper Watershed Dam program of the Agriculture Department was way underfunded for decades.

Now, as Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley (R) said on the floor of the Senate last week, “With more precipitation, snowmelt, saturated soil, frozen ground and massive ice jams—we are in store for significant Spring flooding that may reach 200 million Americans.”

The following selected specifics demonstrate an idea of the hit to food production and future capacity.

An estimated 55% of U.S. corn and 60% of soybean crop areas are at risk of flooding. Spring plantings will be disrupted for certain in large parts of this cropland. Land under water now is almost surely not going to be seeded. The debris ranges from metal shards, to rocks, to silt and sand. After the 2011 big floods, some of the debris wasn’t cleared for a few years. From county to county, 5-15% more corn and soybeans were in storage in on-farm bins than in recent years, because farmers have been holding it off market, in hopes of getting a higher price. Now, the crops are destroyed. Very little is insured. Plus, the metal bins are busting out—exploding—from the pressure of the water-swollen crop inside. The grain itself is unusable. Even ethanol plants aren’t buying flooded corn.

The core Missouri Basin states which are hit very hard—Nebraska, Iowa, South Dakota, Missouri and Kansas—account for 27% of U.S. cattle, or about 26 million head. The larger region—Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois, Nebraska, Missouri, Kansas and South Dakota—have 48% of all U.S. hogs. Egg production is concentrated here, with 34% of all U.S. egg output in the six states of Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois, Nebraska, Missouri and South Dakota. (USDA Economic Research Service)

Thousands of livestock have perished either due to extreme cold weather, blizzard conditions, or extreme flooding. The fact that the disaster comes during calving season has increased the animal losses everywhere. Flood waters went through feed lots, and hog and poultry barns. Surviving cattle are suffering significant trauma after-effects, including disease susceptibility and lack of weight gain. There are increases in clostridial (mainly blackleg) and leptospiral infections.

The loss of water supplies in many areas has caused big concern for large cattle, swine and chicken operations. The farms and feed lots could not be accessed due to flood water, and drinking water for the animals has had to be trucked in.

In Nebraska, cattle feedlots lost an estimated $36 million in feed supplies. Nebraska National Guard Chinook helicopters dropped hay for flood-stranded cattle, which, they report, hasn’t been done in 50 years. Cattle feedlots report losses running at $1 million a day, from the increased transportation costs involved.

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