Last week we were on a road trip. We followed the Missouri River from North Dakota through Nebraska and Iowa, and saw some of the most devastating flooding I’ve ever witnessed. Yes, the worst of the flooding was last spring, but the Missouri river is still a mile or more wide in places; freeways and roads are still closed and farmsteads are still under water with houses, barns, and equipment sheds all standing in feet of floodwater. The topsoil has been washed away on whole sections of what was prime farmland. Beyond the riverbottom, out on the plains in some parts of the midwest, this year’s harvests were poor, if they happened at all. Water-saturated ground could not be planted, or would not grow much of a crop.
The problem is wide-spread. Wisconsin and Michigan farmers are having a disappointing harvest, according to the USDA. Michigan growers are down an estimated 9 to 15 % in all crops.
Some might think this doesn’t seem so bad; it’s just this year’s harvest, and a bad year is just part of farming. But from what I saw and heard, the worst thing is, there is more water on the way now, and it’s going to affect next year’s crop. Winter storms have begun early, with heavy rains saturating the northern plains in September, and now we see heavy snows in the headwaters of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers. Another year of flooding could be coming.
The repercussions of continued midwest flooding are painful to contemplate. Two years of bad harvest can be absorbed, but what if it’s three or more? The damage to our food supply and our national economy could be staggering.
I don’t have an answer to that, but It’s one more reason for California to solve its own political and water problems. The nation can’t afford to have two major growing regions in crisis.
I’m Len Wilcox and that’s the Western View from AgNet West and Citrus Industry Magazine. Visit us on the web at www.citrusindustry.net.
About the Author
Len Wilcox is a retired scientist who also ran a newspaper and has written for agricultural publications since the 1980s. He was a regular contributor to California Farmer Magazine. His commentary “The Western View” is a regular feature on Farm City Newsday and AgNet West.