American Soybean Association vice president Ray Gaesser was part of a group of Iowa Soybean Association representatives who met in August with farmers from Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska and Missouri about the devastating flooding that has taken place along the Missouri River this year. ISA organized the meeting at Hamburg, a flood-weary town in Iowa's southwest corner, in an effort to get farmers' ideas on how the state and national associations can provide assistance with these types of disasters.
"Many of the concerns of these farmers center around their near-term need for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to officially say that the Corps will rebuild the levees," says Gaesser, who farms near Creston in southwest Iowa. "Without that statement, crop insurance will be very difficult and very expensive to get."
The flood-affected farmers are also concerned with who sets the pool levels for the six big Missouri River reservoirs upstream, north of Iowa and Nebraska, and how those decisions were involved in increasing the devastation that resulted from the historic flooding this summer.
Who will pay for levee repairs? Who sets the policy on pool levels?
"The capacity of the reservoirs of the Missouri River basin is about 75 million acre-feet," Gaesser says. One acre-foot of water is equivalent to 325,851 gallons of water. "The historic pool level has been 36 million acre-feet, but recently it was established that it could be maintained at 57 million acre-feet, leaving only about 25% of capacity for flood control. So the farmers located along the Missouri River are concerned about how that number was established, what the criteria were for changing it and why it was done."
The group is also seeking a stay on implementing the Missouri River Master Water Control Manual that guides the Army Corps of Engineers operation of dams and reservoirs, and a moratorium on the corps buying land for flood mitigation until pool level issues are resolved.
"The farmers we met with are afraid the media will forget them and that the legislators will forget them," Gaesser says. "The soybean associations, state and national, have an opportunity to address those needs, share those concerns with legislators and regulators, and exchange information with farmers up and down the river so they have more and better information and can make business decisions for their future."
People need information to make decisions, and prepare for recovery
Meanwhile, Iowa State University Extension agronomists, ag engineers, farm management specialists and livestock specialists are waiting with their Nebraska counterparts and western Iowa farmers for the flood waters to go down. "Once the waters go down and we can see what we are faced with, we'll begin working with county offices to hold grower meetings," says Aaron Saeugling, ISU Extension field agronomist in southwest Iowa. "We will discuss the options farmers have to recover from the flooding."
Saeugling says the waiting is hard, especially for the farmers who have only a water-soaked levee between the flood waters and their crops. He encourages farm families to remember that help is available by calling the Iowa Concern hotline during these trying times. The Iowa Concern hotline number is found on the ISU Exension website. Just Google "Iowa Concern hotline phone number."
Missouri River is now expected to be back in its banks by October
Flooding of the Missouri River this summer along Iowa, Nebraska and Missouri has forced hundreds of families from their homes, flooded many farmsteads, drowned an estimated 150,000 acres of Iowa crops, closed highways and bridges and caused other on-going aggravation and economic loss.
The corps announced in August that residents, business owners and farmers weary from the massive flooding will have to wait until late September or early October for the Missouri River to return to its banks. Releases of water from Gavins Point dam in South Dakota began being lowered in late July and early August. But it will take a long time for the water that's on farm fields and in rural areas to recede. Corps officials say they have to reduce the flow slowly. If they let water out too fast, levees risk breaking. If the water level drops slowly, levee sections can dry and stabilize.