Adding Up Crop Losses From Midwest Floods


This is the VOA Special English Agriculture Report.

Farmers in parts of the American Midwest face a difficult recovery after the worst flooding in fifteen years. Storms that flooded rivers and drowned crops have been blamed for at least twenty-fourth deaths since late May.

The floods displaced tens of thousands of people in several states across America's agricultural heartland. There are concerns that crop losses could push already-high food prices even higher.

Fertile lands in some states could be mistaken for lakes. The mighty Mississippi River broke through or flowed over the tops of dirt levees in Iowa, Illinois and Missouri.

The floods hit hardest in Iowa, the leading corn state and also the top soybean producer last year. Thirty-eight centimeters of rain fell on some cropland over a two-week period. Governor Chet Culver has declared most counties as disaster areas. Iowa officials have said that crop damage in that state could reach three billion dollars.

The United States Department of Agriculture is expected to announce estimates of crop losses in the coming days. The department is being urged to let farmers plant corn on land set aside for conservation.

Some farmers may replant corn. Others may replace corn with soybeans. What farmers do now depends partly on the extent of damage to the land. Floodwaters in some areas may contain industrial waste or other harmful substances.

What the weather does during the rest of the growing season will also be important.

Rain delays have left soybean planting behind the five-year average in twelve of eighteen major soybean-producing states. Other crops including wheat, rice and oats have also suffered.

In Burlington, Iowa, as many as fifty trains normally pass through the city every day, mostly carrying coal or passengers. But Burlington is quiet now until water is off the rails and workers can inspect for damage. City Manager Doug Worden says Burlington took steps to prevent severe property damage after the record floods of fifteen years ago.

While the Midwest deals with recent flooding, the nation's top agricultural state, California, faces increasingly dry conditions. On June fourth, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a statewide drought, the first such action since nineteen ninety-one. The order followed two years of below-average rainfall and other limitations on water supplies.

And that's the VOA Special English Agriculture Report, written by Jerilyn Watson and Jill Moss.