This spring’s Midwest floods could turn out to be the region’s biggest economic disaster in decades. With more flooding expected, no one can estimate the final damage, but it will likely surpass the $21 billion in losses tallied by the flood of 1993.
Crop damage in Iowa alone has already surpassed $2.7 billion. Corn prices were near $8 a bushel Monday on the Chicago Board of Trade, but many other important crops were also devastated, especially wheat in Missouri and Nebraska and soybeans in Indiana and Kentucky.
Like thousands of other farmers in the region, Mitchel McLane’s corn fields near the Mississippi River in Illinois won’t get to benefit from the record prices such crops are fetching. The record prices will go to producers whose crops are unaffected by the flood. So much water is seeping up from the ground on his farm that “you can’t even hardly walk on it, let alone [get] a tractor or anything else on it,” McLane said.
McLane said his fields would probably remain waterlogged into August. But “even if the river goes down soon, there’s going to be at least half that we probably won’t get a crop on at all this year,” he said.
Some fields will take months or even years to recover from built-up debris or silt; others were eroded by the rushing floodwaters. In addition to billions of dollars in crop loss, livestock producers have reported losing animals due to the inability to transport them to dry ground.
Casey Langan, a spokesman for the Wisconsin Farm Bureau, said farmers across the Midwest face the same problem. “It’s already June, it’s too late to replant. What you see now that is lost is lost for good.”
The story is the same in Indiana, where State Agriculture Director Andy Miller said the floods were the greatest economic catastrophe in the state’s history.