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Farmers report severe losses after visiting operations in floodway

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Mississippi County Sheriff Keith Moore walks toward landowners Monday as they return to Highway 102 after checking on their property in the floodway in Mississippi County.
(Laura Simon) [Order this photo]
CHARLESTON, Mo. -- When Neal Tinnon hopped into his boat Monday morning, he hoped to come back with word that his buildings were still standing, his diesel tanks were anchored down tight and that his farm cat and her newborn kittens had somehow found safety.

But the Southeast Missouri farmer returned to the makeshift shores of Highway 102 a few hours later with a grim expression and an empty pet carrier.

The house was severely damaged, with washed-away porches, busted windows and a saturated interior. One end of the shop building had been uprooted from its foundation and the fuel tanks were nowhere in sight.

"I thought at least the cat might be all right," Tinnon said. "And she would have been all right if they hadn't breached the levee."

For Tinnon and many others who farm in the Birds Point-New Madrid floodway, their first visit home in a week resulted in little good news.

Mississippi County Sheriff Keith Moore allowed land owners to inspect the damage that was caused by the Mississippi River, which now is flowing through their homes and over their property, roadways and farming equipment. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers last week activated the floodway in an effort to reduce historic floodwaters in communities in Missouri, Illinois and Kentucky.

For eight hours Monday, the farmers put on life jackets and used boats normally reserved for fishing to get to and survey their property.

Many left anxious yet hopeful; many came back dejected.

Jackie Barker, for example, is a third-generation farmer whose grandfather fought back the waters from the family farm home that was built 114 years ago. Barker's father battled the infamous flood of 1937, when Barker, now 82, was just a boy. Barker remembers that flood well.

This one is at least as bad, he said Monday after looking over his 271 acres where he -- like most of the other floodway farmers -- tend to soybeans, corn and wheat.

Barker's eight grain bins are still standing, but he knows the fans and other electrical equipment inside are shot. The house his grandfather built stood up to the water reasonably well, but the other buildings didn't. Windows are gone, doors are destroyed and he said he hates to even think about other damage that he couldn't see below the water's murky surface.

"It's all in pretty rough shape," he said.

But Barker said farming is in his blood. For now, he is content to simply wait until the water subsides.

When asked if he's considered quitting during this trying week, Barker just laughed.

"The only thing I ever quit in my life is smoking," he said. "I hope to clean it up and stay around until another flood comes. My parents went through it, and they got over it and I will, too."

Moore said at least 50 farmers and property owners inspected their property. He intends to allow it again today as long as the weather cooperates.

Moore heard similar stories from farmers about what they'd found when they reached their places.

"A lot of their property is destroyed," Moore said. "It's gone."

No accidents were reported, but one boat had engine trouble and the farmers aboard had to be given a lift back to shore, Moore said. Only property owners or their employees were allowed onto the floodway, Moore said. Life jackets were required and they had to check in with law enforcement before they got into the water and when they got out at three designated areas, he said.

After 4 p.m. when the time expired, all were accounted for, Moore said. Missouri National Guard soldiers manned checkpoints and the Missouri State Highway Patrol's Water Patrol had officers and boats at each entry point.

As land owners inspected their property, Gov. Jay Nixon Monday announced that he asked the USDA's Farm Service Agency to start damage assessments "as soon as possible" for 56 Missouri counties hit by storms and severe flooding.

The request is the first step in declaring the counties as primary disaster areas -- those where at least 30 percent of the estimated yield crop will be lost or where individual farmers suffer production losses of more than 30 percent.

A disaster declaration would allow eligible farmers to be considered for USDA assistance.

Nixon's request included several Southeast Missouri counties, including Bollinger, Cape Girardeau, Madison, Mississippi, New Madrid, Pemiscot, Perry, Ste. Genevieve, Scott, Stoddard and others.

On Monday night, President Obama declared five Missouri counties -- Butler, Mississippi and New Madrid among them -- major disaster areas. The declaration means eligible individuals and households in those counties can seek federal assistance for uninsured losses from the storms and flooding.

But Sam Barker, a cousin to Jackie, said he was suspicious of any help the government might be promising. Barker farms 2,000 acres in the 130,000-acre spillway and he said he feels like the farmers were "sacrificial lambs" to save other communities.

"They ruined our livelihood, the destroyed the infrastructure down here and they took away our only defense against this raging river," he said Monday after looking over his property.

"They did it and that's fine, but if they're going to sacrifice us, they need to come here and make it right. They need to compensate us for this destruction."

When told of the governor's request, he remained dubious.

"I'm the third generation to go through a flood," he said. "This one remains to be seen, but they didn't get a thing out of it."



Pertinent address:

Charleston, MO

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Such a sad story, these families gave up so much lost everything they had worked so hard for over the years. I hope the people will remember what these farm families gave up one week ago tonight. What took place at birds point will cost millions of dollars to replace and years to recover.

-- Posted by swampeastmissouri on Mon, May 9, 2011, at 9:10 PM

BTW: How can you make a comment like you just made some of you people never cease to amaze me.

-- Posted by swampeastmissouri on Mon, May 9, 2011, at 9:15 PM

all to save a town that is one matchstick away from being extinct....

-- Posted by Skeptic1 on Mon, May 9, 2011, at 9:31 PM

But this wasn't all about saving Cairo. This was about relieving the building and mounting pressure on the wall in Cape and everywhere else. The river has already receded according to the question I asked in Speak Out. This land is in a flood plain, it's simple. What doesn't make sense? It's going to flood, farmers are going to get paid via the government, correct? It's the way it works. Now they are suing. How can you sue someone because you live or farm in a flood plain, I don't get IT!

-- Posted by Hot Dog on Mon, May 9, 2011, at 9:36 PM

Sooo aren't all the towns and placed around theriver flood land. Hence why it would be flooding too. But we build dams to stop that. I guess I don't get it

-- Posted by BG10 on Mon, May 9, 2011, at 10:05 PM

BTW, I don't know what to say. So I guess I will say nothing. Your remarks say it all!

-- Posted by Robert* on Mon, May 9, 2011, at 10:33 PM

BTW - yeah, these "greedy" farmers and their families work their a$$es off to get their land into shape. It's not the easy job you must think it is and it doesn't happen over night - it takes years and years of planning and work and heartache.

You know, you live in a tornado prone area - hope you aren't called "greedy" if your house and all you ever worked for your entire life is taken away from you. And don't forget about earthquakes - 'cause you're aware of those too and I'm sure it'd be no big deal if you lost everything. After all, you live in an area that has known risks.

-- Posted by concerned4all on Mon, May 9, 2011, at 10:37 PM


Next time you start bashing farmers just take a week off from eating and see how it would be without them.

-- Posted by skibum on Mon, May 9, 2011, at 10:40 PM

I am amazed at some of the insensitive comments which portray these farmers as "greedy' etc. This damage to their farms was done on purpose...it appears that they may lose a year's income (not to mention the damage done to land and equipment) I doubt that many of us could sustain that...yes they are in a flood plain...so is downtown Cape...I remember before the wall was built that downtown merchants suffered each time there was a flood...it appears to me that the Corp of Engineers did not do an acceptable job of explaining the need for the blowing up of the levee...

-- Posted by walela on Tue, May 10, 2011, at 3:53 AM

My sympathies to everyone affected by the flooding. My father was a farmer in New Madrid County at the time of the 1937 flood and lost everything. He moved away and it took years for him to recover.

-- Posted by Acronym on Tue, May 10, 2011, at 5:15 AM

BTW you don't seem to have a clue about farming you should read up before posting!A cat is a important tool in farming.It my not have been evacuated because it hid to give birth? cats do that, they were in such a rush it was forgotten?

It also tells the caliber of this fine farmer nothing so small that it did not matter. And lastly it could be it was his HOPE!!Hope that a piece has survived, that life goes on and he /they will survive.

-- Posted by Patti 56 on Tue, May 10, 2011, at 6:13 AM

Pay the farmers for their land and their loss. Convert the land back into the flood plain that it once was so this doesn't happen again. I agree with BTW about the cat.

-- Posted by wolfwoman on Tue, May 10, 2011, at 6:37 AM

The taxpayers owe the landowners jack squat. We already paid to build and maintain a levee system to make the land farmable in the first place. AND we paid the land owners for rights to the easement. Oh wait, those are small facts.

Poor things. This attitude that the rest of society owes these people anything is ridiculous. I think it's time to exercise a little "small government," and throw out this "frivoulous lawsuit."

-- Posted by Rufus R. Jones on Tue, May 10, 2011, at 6:58 AM

For some reason, people think the government will "pay" for the flood damage. Not so. The government will offer "disaster loans", with interest, to farmers who "qualify." The farmers have to apply and offer collateral to justify the loan. Some may not be able to do so or receive/afford the amount needed to rebuilt. They already probably have bank loans on the damaged homes and structures. Unlike unemployment payments or Medicaid..farmers are on their own. As self-employed, they probably can not qualify for unemployment, their "on" paper values are above "Medicaid" financial levels. The decision to flood their property and businesses with a violent flow of water leaves them without any recourse.

Federal disaster "aid" is not for individual situations. Plus "federal aid" will be able to repair the damages caused by the sudden surge of levee break waters. And insurance? Crop insurance does not pay for infrastructure damage; flood insurance covers buildings up to a certain amount,not contents, or roads/ditches/septic/tanks..

One has to wonder WHO really made the decision to flood farm lands to save a dying city? And why? Votes?

-- Posted by Americantaxpayer on Tue, May 10, 2011, at 7:16 AM

He left the cat, how hard would it have been to take the cat with you?

-- Posted by ssinteriors on Tue, May 10, 2011, at 7:18 AM

How sad I am to be reading some of these comments on here!!! If the farmers get any money will it even come close to compensating them for their loss?? We don't know .. We don't know if they'll get anything at this point so let's not be so hateful and act as though they are greedy !!! I was just recently in Florida and as I was riding down the elevator of our hotel a man asked me where I was from when I told him southeast Missouri he asked about all the tornado weather we get here and he shared he was from Florida and about dealing withhurticane weather there then a woman who was on the elevator said she was from California and hated all the earthquakes and earthquake threats and a young man that was riding with is was from Northern Iowa and said they have to deal with horrible blizzards, it was kind of a interesting revelation for a group of 5 passengers on the elevator at that moment so..... BTW and other critical people where do you suggest we live to AVOID Mother Nature??? Just curious?????

-- Posted by Crys5 on Tue, May 10, 2011, at 8:01 AM

the farmer with the cat is dealing with an unfathomable catastrophic loss...the drowned "cat" is probably the only thing he can wrap his head around to understand at this time and the "cat" represents a lot more than just a cat with kittens.

oh and it's not so easy catching a barn cat who just had kittens...

also...cairo is still a craphole...

-- Posted by TommyStix on Tue, May 10, 2011, at 8:32 AM

I'm not sure is BTW can't read, comprehend what he reads or is just plain stupid? The lawsuit stated from the beginning it was just to make sure the government does what it promised. Of course they always do, just ask the American Indian.

-- Posted by Mowrangler on Tue, May 10, 2011, at 8:46 AM

What happened to Cape County being declared by Obama?

-- Posted by jrjmo on Tue, May 10, 2011, at 8:59 AM

There were plenty of places to take a cat. He could have dropped it off on a back road or anything other than leaving it there to die.

-- Posted by Ashy on Tue, May 10, 2011, at 9:03 AM

But the little 2 star save Cairo for Durbin !

-- Posted by True-American on Tue, May 10, 2011, at 9:25 AM

Please understand that this land is some of the most fertile, valuable farm land in the State of Missouri. We are losing farmland every day in this country - What are you going to eat when the farmers are all gone? What if it's like oil and we have to import every bite of food? Do you really think you can grow enough to feed your family in your backyard? WAKE UP PEOPLE!!

-- Posted by CapeCoResident on Tue, May 10, 2011, at 9:57 AM

We have a surplus of food. We're nowhere close to not being able to grow enough food. Enough of the doomsday starvation talk.

-- Posted by FarmBoy06 on Tue, May 10, 2011, at 10:10 AM

I love all this "what will we do when all the farmland is gone" talk. That is just stupid. Right there with all the tree huggers complaining about trees! Are we, as a country really this stupid?

-- Posted by GSP on Tue, May 10, 2011, at 10:13 AM

Oh crap, I just agreed with FarmBoy. Haha

-- Posted by GSP on Tue, May 10, 2011, at 10:15 AM

I take it we've met on the sports boards? Lol.

-- Posted by FarmBoy06 on Tue, May 10, 2011, at 10:16 AM

We may not be near starvation but the prices we will pay for our food will go up, meat, produce, etc. I think that is what people are worried about!! And alot if us are living payday to payday so it is a legitimate fear for everyone!!!!!

-- Posted by Crys5 on Tue, May 10, 2011, at 10:23 AM

Prices are going to go up regardless of whether or not the birds point levee was blown. If not that levee, then another would have been blown. If not this farmland be flooded, anothers would have. It's bad luck, thats all. I get tired of the racism that is spewed. People are acting like Cairo does not matter. That is just stupid.

-- Posted by GSP on Tue, May 10, 2011, at 10:33 AM

we paid the land owners for rights to the easement

-- Posted by Rufus R. Jones on Tue, May 10, 2011, at 6:58 AM

Some of the easements say they have the right to sue for damages if the levee is breached. The government gave the property owner's the right to sue for damages in the easement itself. There's nothing frivolous about it.

-- Posted by gomer on Tue, May 10, 2011, at 10:41 AM


How can people be so ungreatful?

Can you honestly tell me that if that was your house and livelyhood that you would not be devestated? Can you tell me that you would not be angry and hurt, and want to make sure that the people that made the decision to destroy it would make it right? I don't think anyone in their cottenpickin mind (no pun intended) would just be ok with it. "Eh if they pay, they pay. It's ok, we will be back to normal in 5 years" Uh I don't think so, and if you do say that you are probably not a human being.

Have a little compassion for people. After all these are the types of people that feed you, cloth you, and much much more.

-- Posted by Semo Gal on Tue, May 10, 2011, at 11:39 AM

P.S. The cat is supposed to be viewed as a metephore in this story! I am sure it really happened but it is to make people think about even the smallest thing that these farmers lost...like a cat.

-- Posted by Semo Gal on Tue, May 10, 2011, at 11:41 AM

A good barn cat is hard to find. Not just any old cat you might pick up at the dog pound will survive on a farm. TommyStix got it right, too... It's almost impossible to catch a barn cat. Mr. Tinnon realizes the value of a good barn cat. They're worth their weight in gold because they keep mice, rats, voles, and other vermin off the place. This cat had newborn kittens, so going forward a whole bloodline of good barn cats was destroyed. BWT and you other slippery-shoed, city-slicker veinte latte drinkers ought to keep your coffee shop social assessments to yourselves because you've obviously never been beyond the city limits before, and, therefore, have no clue.

-- Posted by Tywappity on Tue, May 10, 2011, at 12:53 PM

They farm in a FLOODWAY!!! Nothing else to say.

-- Posted by slim_pickens on Tue, May 10, 2011, at 12:59 PM

Are they entitled to payment if the floodway is activated, according to the original deed? Can anyone answer that? I would imagine not.

-- Posted by slim_pickens on Tue, May 10, 2011, at 1:02 PM

Semogal, you're totally missing the point. Nobody seems to be upset about farmers being upset about losing their land. People are upset because the comments that degrade and devalue the people of Cairo, Il.

-- Posted by GSP on Tue, May 10, 2011, at 1:11 PM

slim_pickens, flowage easements were purchased by the government back in the 1930s. In 1937 the Corps of Engineers had their men go out of the levee with pickaxes and shovels to breach the levee. When that didn't work they brought some dynamite out, and made several gashes along a stretch of the top of the levee.

Flowage easements allow the government permission to flow water over the land. Flowage easements do not allow for the removal of any topsoil from the land, do not allow the deposition of sand on the land, do not allow the destruction of homes or other structures built on the land. The federal government is obligated to correct damage done because it caused the damage.

In 1986 the Corps came up with a new and exciting method of "operating the floodway." Now they were going to bury big pipes in the top of the levee, and use high explosives to blow off the top eleven feet of a two mile stretch of levee, releasing 550,000 cubic feet per second of river water to wash across the land. You may not be able to see it, but to me it looks like it was a major move of the goalposts, and that, in my book, is cheating.

-- Posted by Tywappity on Tue, May 10, 2011, at 1:26 PM

Someone please write a story on the amount of CRP or crop subsidy each of these farmers has been paid since they've owned their property. Then I will decide if they deserve further bailout.

-- Posted by kicker on Tue, May 10, 2011, at 1:28 PM

Tywappity: Back up your information.

-- Posted by slim_pickens on Tue, May 10, 2011, at 1:32 PM

If you ask me, most everyone in the bootheel is living on borrowed time; borrowed from all of the folks who took advantage of cheap land 100 years ago to live in a RECLAIMED SWAMP.

BTW, our beloved Louis Houck had a big hand in that.

-- Posted by slim_pickens on Tue, May 10, 2011, at 1:33 PM

Are they entitled to payment if the floodway is activated, according to the original deed? Can anyone answer that? I would imagine not.

-- Posted by slim_pickens on Tue, May 10, 2011, at 1:02 PM

You imagine wrong. Not only are some entitled to payment, they are entitled to sue for damages on top of that - PER THE ACTUAL EASEMENT.

People in San Francisco live on an earthquake fault line. I guess everyone should have just turned their backs on them back in '98 and said 'you live in an earthquake zone, too bad, sucks to be you'.

-- Posted by gomer on Tue, May 10, 2011, at 1:42 PM

Well, slim, this fellow explains it pretty well: http://www.johnweeks.com/river_mississip...

Here's a Corps information sheet: http://www.mvm.usace.army.mil/Readiness/...

Here's a sensible report written by a sensible local man in 1988: http://kfvsonline.com/news/pdf/1988_Army...

Other than these, you may feel compelled to google "Birds Point New Madrid Floodway" so you can learn something for yourself.

-- Posted by Tywappity on Tue, May 10, 2011, at 1:48 PM

kicker, we think it's in the public interest that you donate 20% of your retirement fund to the public good. Should be compensate you for the taking?

-- Posted by Tywappity on Tue, May 10, 2011, at 2:00 PM

Tywappity: The first two links do not address verified agreements with regard to compensation of losses. The third is just a transcript of one man's opinion of "what if." Again, I ask for legitimate proof of promised remuneration based on the original agreements (easements, or whatever you want to call it); oh, and I have looked, and haven't been able to find it. I say "show me" before we pay anybody.

-- Posted by slim_pickens on Tue, May 10, 2011, at 2:01 PM

Okay, Tywappity, try this on for size:

"On December 11, 1928, [President Calvin]Coolidge approved the federal acquisition of flowage rights--a one-time indemnity paid landowners to flood their land during the operation of the Birds Pont-New Madrid floodway."


"The acquisition of flowages easements and land rights had proved difficult and time consuming. It was not until January 1942--fourteen years after the passage of the 1928 Flood Control Act that the federal government completed the acquisition of flowage rights on the necessary 106,858 acres within the floodway at an average price of $17 per acre."



-- Posted by slim_pickens on Tue, May 10, 2011, at 3:05 PM

The attorney claims it, that doesn't really matter, but he is saying so publicly to the NY Times.

The link is here ---


"The corps did not have easements on all the affected tracts of property," said J. Michael Ponder, the lawyer representing the farmers. "Some had ancient easements with no economic value, and some had easements that reserve the right of the property owner to sue for damages."

The last sentence is the pertinent one. Now, can you prove that they do not have these stipulations? I can't prove what the easements say, nor can you prove what they don't say - we'll probably find out in a court of law one day. But if they, in fact, say that they are allowed to sue for damages, then they are, in fact, allowed to sue for damages.

-- Posted by gomer on Tue, May 10, 2011, at 3:06 PM

So, I suppose the meaning of "one-time indemnity" is now up for debate.

-- Posted by slim_pickens on Tue, May 10, 2011, at 3:06 PM

If you aren't willing to take the financial risk for something, buy insurance. If you can't buy insurance to cover it, and you're not willing to take the financial risk yourself, it probably isn't a good idea.

-- Posted by slim_pickens on Tue, May 10, 2011, at 3:10 PM

slim, I reckon the only way you're going to find out exactly what you want is to go to the Mississippi County Courthouse in Charleston, and read the easements for yourself.

-- Posted by Tywappity on Tue, May 10, 2011, at 4:56 PM

Obviously the majority here don't know what it's like to have something in your family for 100+ years. Well, I do and I can't imagine watching it purposefully destroyed. It makes me sad that these legacies are considered throwaways. I don't think there's any good answers here, but slamming the farmers who just lost everything they have is wrong. Can you imagine someone making light of these same losses in a tornado?

-- Posted by MOmom97 on Tue, May 10, 2011, at 6:13 PM

slim_pickens, Tywappity knows what they're talking about whether you want to agree with the situation or not. I too happen to know that the easements allow the farmers to sue for damage to their property. "I say 'show me' before we pay anybody." - fortunately, you don't have to be shown one single thing. Whether or not the farmers are compensated requires nothing from you, and you are owed nothing - not even an explanation. This is between the Corp, the government, and our hard-working farmers. It should happen, and I hope it will happen. However, one way or the other, your opinions of it just don't factor in.

-- Posted by sayswho? on Tue, May 10, 2011, at 10:12 PM

BTW-please move to Cairo...in 1937 @ the trial in Cape between the landowners vs. the federal gov't over the breaching of the levee then, expert testimony was entered into evidence that AFTER, the 1927 Flood Protection Act was passed, the value of the land in the floodway dropped 50% in value-from $100 an acre to $50. AND, after the breach, land values ranged far lower-even to as low as $8 an acre. So, as someone stated, the original easement payment was $17-wow, they made out like those 3rd generation welfare deadbeats in Cairo, Ugh?? How much risk would you liberal, ignorant, chickens _ _t non-producing (probably by strict economic definitions) commentors be willing to take-on to build a business like farming? NONE, is my estimate. Oh, and dont ever sue anyone if u assininely assume these farmers dont have a legitimate cause of action.

-- Posted by Bearcat66 on Wed, May 11, 2011, at 8:59 AM

They don't have a legitimate cause, or they wouldn't need to sue.

-- Posted by slim_pickens on Wed, May 11, 2011, at 11:35 AM

Only the illegitimate have a cause to sue ???

-- Posted by True-American on Wed, May 11, 2011, at 5:37 PM

or only illegitimate causes can sue ?

Either way it sounds like a Chicago thing.

-- Posted by True-American on Wed, May 11, 2011, at 5:45 PM

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