Flood Concerns Mount for 2012


By Todd Neeley, DTN Staff Reporter

OMAHA (DTN) — As the Missouri River continues to rise and officials begin to tally up the damage to agriculture, there is concern that the flood waters could continue to be a factor next spring.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is racing the clock to release enough water from Gavins Point dam near Yankton, S.D., in time for waters to recede and repairs to be made on levees in Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska and South Dakota.

“We anticipate the current release levels from Gavins Point to continue until at least mid-August,” said Carlos J. Lazo, public affairs specialist for the Corps of Engineers. “We need to maintain these high releases until the reservoirs are back down to a manageable level. The other guiding principle is that we want to have the releases in the fall at a low enough level for things to dry out and repair work to start before winter.”

As of June 27, the Corps continued to release about 160,000 cubic feet per second from Gavins Point dam, according to the Missouri River Mainstem Reservoir Bulletin Tuesday — more than twice the amount of the previous record release in 1997. As of Wednesday, the reservoir remains at about 1,207 feet, or just three feet below the spillway gate.

According to a Reuters story this week, Cargill estimated that as many as 2.5 million crop acres will be lost to Missouri River flooding and rain. State officials contacted by DTN said it was too early to tell.

Reports of flood and heavy rainfall losses are at odds with USDA figures in the June 30 acreage report. That report, detailed elsewhere on DTN/The Progressive Farmer news pages, pegged corn-planted acres at 92.28 million acres, up 5{e7e4ba4d9a3c939171d79cae1e3a0df1d41e5a91c3c4158fbb92284b490bc9d3} from last year; soybeans at 75.2 million planted acres, down 3{e7e4ba4d9a3c939171d79cae1e3a0df1d41e5a91c3c4158fbb92284b490bc9d3} from 2010. USDA said it will re-survey farmers in Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota in July, as the June 30 report results were based on early June surveys.

Jay Rempe, vice president of government relations for the Nebraska Farm Bureau Federation, said he fears that some of the flooded land will be hard to recover.

“Given the prolonged nature of this flooding, it appears it will be many years before the land will return to its previous productivity, if at all,” he said.

“There are concerns with flooding next year and whether enough water can be evacuated this year to avoid problems again next year,” Rempe said. “We have also heard concerns with transportation given the number of highways and river crossing points that have been closed, and how this will impact local commodity and input markets.”

In particular, there are several river crossings that Nebraska farmers near Nebraska City, Auburn and Falls City use to access I-29, he said.

“I’ve heard local farmers and others do a fair amount of business on both sides of the river in terms of selling commodities, purchasing inputs and equipment, and the concern is the disruptions the closings will have,” Rempe said.

Bobbie Kriz-Wickham, a representative with the Nebraska Department of Agriculture, said it’s not clear what the flooding will mean for 2012.

“Each farmer’s ability to utilize acres next year that were flooded this season will depend on the level and length of inundation,” she said. “Those whose acres are most severely impacted unfortunately could face a significant amount of time to rehabilitate their land.

“It will be a highly variable situation with limited opportunity for prediction until we get through the current flooding conditions.”

David Miller, director of research and commodity services for the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, said many acres will be damaged from the floods including soil loss from scouring or silt deposits or both.

“Our current expectation is that 90{e7e4ba4d9a3c939171d79cae1e3a0df1d41e5a91c3c4158fbb92284b490bc9d3} or more of the land currently affected by the flooding in Iowa will be available for cropping next year,” he said, “although it is unlikely that much field work will happen on these fields before spring 2012.”

Blake Hurst, president of the Missouri Farm Bureau Federation, said farmers are venturing into uncharted territory.

“Ten weeks of releases at record levels until August,” he said, “we’ve never seen anything like this. And it could go higher if it continues to rain in the upper basin. The question becomes, are 20,000-cubic-foot releases in winter enough. There has to be a concern to get to a low enough level until spring.”

South Dakota State Climatologist Dennis Todey said the overall moisture picture is a concern.

The recent wet period that has led to a large inflow into the Missouri, he said, has led to wet conditions throughout much of the Northern Plains.

Fields in the Dakotas, Minnesota and other areas were not able to be planted or have been slowed by wetness, Todey said.

“We will not be able to get all these non-river areas dried by next year,” he said. “This is a several-year event we are involved with and will be a certain amount of time before we would see overall changes.”

DTN Senior Ag Meteorologist Bryce Anderson said it is difficult to say whether flooding still will be an issue next year.

“So much depends on winter moisture and even for that matter on spring rainfall as we saw this spring when in Montana the month of May alone saw rainfall of 6 to 12 inches over basically an area the size of the state of Iowa which all drained into the Missouri basin,” he said.

Nebraska State Climatologist Al Dutcher said the recent wet weather in the Missouri River basin has complicated matters.

“First, what we gotta see up there is an end to the precipitation pattern in the central Missouri River and upper Missouri River basin region,” he said. “Until the Corps said we have to make room for a certain threshold of runoff, we don’t know what is in store for us.”

The water releases likely will affect the Mississippi River basin downstream, where the Birds Point-New Madrid levee system was breached on May 2 to lower the flood stage at and above Cairo, Ill.

As a result, about 3.6 million acres of cropland were flooded in Missouri, Illinois, Mississippi, Louisiana and Tennessee, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation.

On June 16 the Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Miss., reported that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimated that it could cost up to $1 billion to repair all levees along the Mississippi, although the Corps’ entire budget is $210 million.


Iowa Farm Bureau’s Miller said that about 190,000 crop acres lie between the Missouri River and Interstate 29 in Iowa. About 100,000 of those acres are planted to corn and 90,000 to soybeans.

He said best estimates are that 75{e7e4ba4d9a3c939171d79cae1e3a0df1d41e5a91c3c4158fbb92284b490bc9d3} of these acres will be flooded and nearly all of the rest will suffer some level of damage from water-logged root systems, standing water and generally poor drainage conditions this year.

Some 20,000 to 30,000 acres east of I-29 are or will be flooded and are expected to suffer severe crop damage, Miller said. At least another 10,000 acres in the Big Sioux River valley will have flood damage. Estimated crop losses in Iowa could be in the $200 million to $250 million range, he said.

“In addition, there is substantial damage to farmsteads, grain bins, machinery and other assets within the flooded areas,” Miller said.

Hurst said many Missouri farmers were able to move farm equipment away from the flood waters, in some areas lining much of I-29 with machinery.

There are questions about how much farm land will sustain permanent damage, and how much of it can be brought back into production next year.

In Iowa, most of the damage likely will be on land within one-quarter mile of the river or with a direct access point of the overflow water, Miller said. Permanent damage could occur in areas directly adjacent to a levee breach or river overflow area, he said. About 20,000 acres is likely to be permanently damaged.

“In addition, severe, long-term flooding can seal over crop land and in such cases, it is likely that a deep tillage operation may be required before the next crop is planted,” Miller said.

Nebraska Agriculture Department’s Kriz-Wickham said there is a potential for about 144,000 lost crop acres in Nebraska along the Missouri River basin. The latest estimate from the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency is that about 66,000 crop acres are inundated.

The Missouri Farm Bureau’s Hurst said that of the 250,000 crop acres in Atchison County, Mo., an estimated 60,000 to 70,000 acres could be lost.


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Posted with DTN Permission by Haylie Shipp


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