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Lawmakers Consider Ways To Help Great Plains Farmers After Flooding

The USDA says none of its disaster programs cover stored grain (photo credit: frankieleon, flckr, CC)

Last month, in the flooding after the bomb cyclone, the Great Plains were studded with burst grain bins. Millions of tons of corn and soybeans spilled into flooded fields. That means the farmers who were storing all the grain won’t be able to sell it.

Agriculture secretary Sonny Perdue said earlier this week the USDA would consider giving those farmers emergency aid.

Currently, there’s no mechanism for helping farmers out with crops flooded while in storage. House agriculture chairman Collin Peterson said farmers are expected to buy their own insurance for that. But a combination of factors made this a bigger disaster than before.

Typically, farmers have warnings about rising waters. That gives them time to move their grain to higher ground. Last month, the rapid snowmelt caused levees to fail, and the frozen ground couldn’t soak up the water.

And farmers had more in storage than ever before. As of March first, the amount of corn in storage was at its third highest, and soybeans were at a record. That’s because of years of oversupplied markets and low prices plus lost sales to China, U.S. farmers’ biggest market for soybeans.

Usually, insurance policies cover grain bins and equipment to move grain, but not the grain itself. The USDA said none of its disaster programs cover stored grain either.

Congress is considering a one-time appropriation of three billion dollars for farmers affected by flooding in the Midwest and tornadoes in the South. With another storm this week, and the climate changing, there was no discussion of how to compensate farmers for future disasters.

Read More:

Ag Insider: “House ag leader backs one-time aid for flooded grain

Reuters: “U.S. disaster aid won’t cover crops destroyed by Midwest floods

Alex Chambers

Alex Chambers started baking bread in a rental house in college, and has been working to achieve that perfect loaf ever since. In the meantime, he’s taught cultural studies and creative writing on campuses and in prisons and community centers, and sourdough bread-baking at Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard in Bloomington. He publishes poems and essays in various journals, when he’s not busy raising kids and roasting Brussels sprouts.

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