Western Iowa Farmers Rush to Save Grain, Livestock Before Missouri Flood Waters Overtake Them

Jeff Jorgenson had moved about all the grain he could by Saturday — about half of what he had stored in bins — from the path of the rising Missouri River.

Then help started rolling in Sunday. Literally.

Neighbors with nearly a dozen semis rushed to help the 43-year-old move his remaining corn and soybeans from encroaching flood waters. “Before that, everyone was scrambling to help people move out of houses, move out of businesses,” Jorgenson said.

Dozens of other western Iowa farmers weren’t so lucky. “The gravel roads were so soft, a lot of guys couldn’t get their grain out,” Jorgenson said.

“The semis would have just sunk in the mud,” he said. “I know I’m fortunate.”

Fremont County farmers estimate about 390,000 bushels of stored soybeans and about 1.2 million bushels of stored corn are under water. And Jorgenson said more grain was being swallowed up Tuesday as the Missouri River crests.

At local cash prices for corn and soybean, that’s about $7.3 million farmers may be unable to replace. And that’s just one county, Jorgenson noted.

Gov. Kim Reynolds declared disasters in 41 counties, making the areas eligible for emergency resources.

“The bins are blowing out,” Jorgenson said, with the water-soaked grain swelling and splitting steel grain bins apart.

Even if farmers averaged losses of $250,000, “that’s a crazy big” hit for growers, Jorgenson said.

“There’s a good chance some of these folks won’t be farming next year,” he said. “The grain they have in storage is what’s paying back the banker, paying back production loans.”

Farmers often store corn and soybeans after harvest in hopes of securing a better price for their crops. That’s even more important this year, with international trade disputes driving down prices that were already depressed from large year-over-year harvests.

Jorgenson said sometimes getting a nickel or dime more per bushel — or a few thousand dollars — can help farmers in a big way.

“That’s how tight margins are now,” he said. “It’s really tough in ag right now.”

It’s unclear how big flooding’s hit to Iowa’s farm economy will be, said Mike Naig, Iowa’s agriculture secretary.

Source: Donnelle Eller, Des Moines Register

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