Farmers were able to plant most of land flooded in 2011

Sunday, October 21, 2012

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Farmers in spring were able to plant all but a few thousand acres of the land deluged by last year's flooding along the Missouri River and the intentional breaching of a Mississippi River levee in Southeast Missouri, U.S. Department of Agriculture figures show.

When farmers can't plant crops because of flooding or other adverse weather conditions, they are able to collect "prevented planting" insurance payments to help mitigate the loss from not being able to sell a crop.

USDA numbers show farmers received the payments for only about 4,900 acres of unplanted Missouri River cropland in about 20 counties in Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and Iowa after the Missouri River basin land flooded in spring 2011, when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released massive amounts of water from upstream reservoirs that had been filled with melting snow and heavy rains.

The onslaught lasted more than 100 days and flooded about 207,000 acres of farmland in Missouri. When the water receded, tree branches and other debris were strewed across fields. Some fields were filled with ruts while others contained so much sand they resembled deserts.

The largest amount of unplanted land was in Holt County, Mo., with 1,125 acres, followed by nearby Atchison County, Mo., with 1,068 acres, according to USDA figures show.

"We had a mild winter and it did allow for an early cleanup," said Mark Sitherwood, presiding commissioner of Holt County. "But most of our ground that didn't get replanted was due to sand and sand deposits in and along the river where the breaks occurred and where we had the higher currents."

Data shows another 5,600 acres went unplanted in Southeast Missouri's New Madrid and Mississippi counties, in part because they were flooded when the corps used explosives to blow gaping holes in the Birds Point levee. The intentional breaching, which inundated about 130,000 acres, let water out of the Mississippi River to save Cairo, Ill.

Officials stressed not all the unplanted land in New Madrid County was tied to the breaching of the Birds Point flooding.

Other busted levees and overflowing waterways inundated an additional 510,000 acres in 2011 in levee-protected areas in Southeast Missouri, said Mark Nussbaum, an engineer for the NRCS.

Many flooded Southeast Missouri farmers even managed to plant a second crop in the summer of 2011. That's because floodwaters along the Mississippi River and its tributaries subsided quickly, unlike along the Missouri River.

"The farmers lost a lot of their first crop of that season, but they were able to get back in there and get a pretty good bean crop out the second part of the summer," said Jim Pogue, a spokesman for the corps' district office in Memphis. "And by 2012, with a few exceptions, the land was back in good production."

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