Cumulative Damage to Iowa Farmland May Prevent Planting in Several Counties This Year  

Iowa Farm Bureau Federation’s (IFBF) economists say Iowa may see upwards of $2 billion in damages from recent flooding in Iowa, which the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) says may peak again once snow melts make their way down from neighboring northern states and heavy spring rains arrive.  The state’s largest general farm organization says damages from the Missouri River are not complete and the Mississippi River’s anticipated flooding has yet to hit, which will make this a challenging year for Iowa farmers.

Dr. Sam Funk, IFBF’s senior economist, says the damages will continue to culminate long after the floodwaters recede.  “In Fremont County, for example, where we have seen more than a quarter of all jobs depend on agriculture and 19 percent come from crop farming alone, there will be a snowball effect from this early spring flooding.   Long after waters recede, the sand and debris left behind must be cleaned up before planting.  But, the equipment to remove that debris is not always available quickly and fields may not be ready in time for farmers to get a crop in at all this year,” says Funk.  “There are infrastructure problems compounding current on-farm struggles.  There have been multiple breaches in levees with roads and bridges rendered unsafe or impassable, which makes it hard to move the equipment in and the product out.  The areas impacted are more extensive than the 2011 Missouri River flooding, where more than 127,000 crop acres were lost. This flood isn’t just bigger; the effects will last longer.”  

This year’s planting challenges may not be the only thing impacting agriculture.  Iowa livestock farmers were challenged by floodwaters directly impacting animals or in accessing roads needed to care for livestock or transport them to market.  It’s too early to know if those challenges will impact meat prices for consumers. 

The size of the areas flooded or being threatened by flooding in the weeks to come, are a concern, because there are also millions of acres impacted throughout the Midwest, including in Nebraska, the Dakotas, and Missouri from this flood.  Grain stored in bins, ready for market, was hit by floodwaters.   “That grain will mostly register as a total loss, because adulterated crops can’t be used for feed and can’t be sent to grain markets because of contamination.  Those impacts, combined with the expected Mississippi flooding, may push a big reaction in the corn market, initially, which already has several challenges this year.  Higher planting intentions for corn may adjust downward due to wet weather.  Markets supported by ethanol plants buying Iowa corn are also looking for solid footing with regulatory stability and blending markets to keep up with the legislative intent of the Renewable Fuel Standard.   And, soybean stocks were high following another strong production year, but that may keep prices from moving as high as they might have otherwise with immediate flooding losses.  The markets will be sorting out planted acres through the next few months, and we know farmers are keeping an eye on it all,” says Funk.