Farmers With Flood-Damaged Crops Are Screwed, and the USDA Can't Help

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There’s no federal program to help farmers who have lost millions of dollars of harvests due to flooding in the midwest over the last month. The Department of Agriculture has no plan to help them with these losses, and most of the crops lost were not insured, according to Reuters.


Last year, the USDA was able to help farmers who were hurt thanks to Trump’s trade war with a $12 billion stimulus package. This was done without Congressional approval. There are also programs that are meant to help farmers who have livestock killed in natural disasters, and who can’t plant crops because of the weather. There’s even a program to help remove things left in fields by flooding.

But the stocks of harvested food, mostly soybeans, that were destroyed in the historic floods are in a grey area. Congress would have to pass new legislation in order for farmers to receive aid for these losses.

“It’s not traditionally been covered,” Agriculture Under Secretary Bill Northey told Reuters. “But we’ve not usually had as many losses.”

From NBC:

Indigo Ag, an agriculture technology company, identified 832 on-farm storage bins within flooded Midwest areas. They hold an estimated 5 million to 10 million bushels of corn and soybeans — worth between $17.3 million and $34.6 million — that could have been damaged in the floods, the company told Reuters.

Across the United States, farmers held soybean stocks of 2.716 billion bushels as of March 1, the largest on record for the time period, the USDA said. Corn stocks were the third-largest on record.

Some in Congress are interested in writing legislation to farmers who lost their harvest in the floods, but that could be a long and difficult process, according to Sen. Chuck Grassley, who addressed farmers at a meeting in Iowa.

“If we have to pass a bill to do it, I hate to tell you how long that takes,” Grassley said, according to NBC.


In the past, flood damage to grain has not usually been such a problem. Farmers usually had advance notice of flooding, and were able to move their crops. But after many levees failed across the midwest, floods hit quickly and without warning.

Some farmers tried to move their crops before the floods hit, but found that dirt roads were too damaged by rain.


“We were just hurrying like hell,” Don Rief, a farmer who had 60,000 bushels of grain damaged by the storms, told Reuters. “Hopefully USDA will come in and minimize some of the damage.”

“This is clearly a gap that we think needs to be addressed,” Iowa agriculture secretary Mike Naig told Reuters.


“We can’t keep this up and make a living,” farmer Michael Peters told the New York Times.

The floods impacted 416,000 acres of farmland in Iowa alone. About 309,000 of those acres will qualify for the program that helps farmers remove debris from fields after floods. Amanda De Jong, state executive director for the USDA Iowa Farm Service Agency, said that project should cost about $34 million.


Northey says farmers are now worried about being able to deliver their promised amount of crops to grain elevators.

“They spent all last year raising that crop, putting it in the bin and they maybe already have it marketed,” Northey said in his statement. “And now they’re going to have to spend time just to get rid of it—just to clean the place up.”


The floods haven’t just impacted farmers. Many homes and businesses were damaged across over a dozen states, and there was a devastating impact on Native American reservations.

Until the levees are fixed, a project which could cost $80 billion, this is going to continue to be a problem.


“When the next one comes along bigger, they either fail or are overtopped again,” Nicholas Pinter, a river flooding expert at UC Davis, told the Times.