Missouri Farm Bureau President Blake Hurst addressed a meeting of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Tuesday evening in St. Joseph to discuss the 2012 Annual Operating Plan for management of the Missouri River basin.  The following is a summary of Hurst’s comments:

It is no secret Farm Bureau remains strongly opposed to many elements of the Missouri River recovery program, including a man-made spring rise, summer low-flows and costly experiments required by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  We continue to call for improvements in the bank stabilization program and can only shake our heads in disbelief that annual spending on habitat recovery programs is more than ten times that spent on operation and maintenance of the Missouri River itself.

We need to once again make flood control a priority. We have moved from allocating water under drought scenarios to protecting lives from high snowpack and rainfall.  Some may think the flood is over now that the water has receded.  Unfortunately, that is not the case.  Like 1993, the effects of this flood will last for years to come. 

The human impact must be paramount as decisions are made.  People are frustrated and angry.  They have lost their homes and possessions, farmers have lost their crops, businesses have closed, roads have disappeared, railroads have been rerouted and rural communities have seen their tax base evaporate.  

We need to be reassured the levee system will be rebuilt to at least its former level of flood protection, and we need the Corps to do everything possible to minimize the risk of flooding next spring.  Unfortunately, we don’t have assurances on either count.  We have not been told rebuilding the levee system is the top priority.

Recent actions to set up a new task force should not be allowed to delay reconstruction.  We do not need another committee or layer of bureaucracy.  Additionally this year’s flood should not be viewed as an opportunity to acquire more land for floodplain restoration.     

Time is of the essence.  Weather forecasters are calling for above average precipitation in the upper basin this winter.  This is cause for concern in a good year, but a recipe for disaster if the system remains in disrepair.   We believe there is a proven need for additional flood storage and cannot support an operating plan that ignores lessons learned this year.

 If the levee system is not repaired, farmers will experience much higher crop insurance premiums next year as the possibility of flooding increases.  As such, we believe the Corps should pay the crop insurance premiums for farmers left unprotected until such time their levee protection is restored.  This should be the case on both the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers.  

Finally, we believe very strongly that flooding in both northwest and southeast Missouri are natural disasters that warrant federal assistance.  Lack of funding is not an excuse and Farm Bureau stands ready to assist the Corps in ensuring necessary resources are provided.

Source: Missouri Farm Bureau