The federal government's deliberate flooding of 130,000 acres of farmland in Missouri this week could cost taxpayers several hundred million dollars, according to

A wide swath of prime farmland in southeastern Missouri is likely to be ruined by fast-moving floodwaters, generating costs that go well beyond insurance coverage for lost crops, Missouri Farm Bureau President Blake Hurst says. "The water is going to scour a channel and deposit dozens of feet in sand drifts," he says.

Carlin Bennett, presiding commissioner in Mississippi County in southeastern Missouri, says it would cost at least $300 million to pay farmers for land they can no longer farm and to repair or replace damaged homes, roads and public facilities. "A lot of the land -- you'll never be able to restore it," Bennett says.

A group of farmers is suing the Army Corps of Engineers, which blasted holes in a levee to ease the swelling Mississippi River, for compensation.

The damage illustrates the limits of the Agriculture Department's crop-insurance program, which pays farmers only for losses from destroyed or damaged crops. "Crop insurance would not pay for this. It won't pay for damage to the ground," Hurst says.

Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, took a first step toward getting federal funds Thursday when he asked President Obama to declare 40 of Missouri's 114 counties disaster areas, which would make them eligible for emergency aid and loans from numerous federal agencies.

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