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Midwest Flooding Could Result In More Than A Billion Dollars Of Losses For Farmers


Underwater - that is the status again today across a lot of the Midwest.


In Nebraska, Governor Pete Ricketts says roads, levees and other infrastructure have been damaged to the tune of almost a half a billion dollars.

KELLY: And meanwhile, in Missouri, the flooding has made travel treacherous. More than a hundred roads are closed. Amtrak has suspended service between Kansas City and St. Louis.

CHANG: And in Iowa, just shy of half of the counties have been declared disaster areas by Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds. She says farm fields look like lakes and that the flooding will significantly impact the spring planting season.

KELLY: Julie Kenney is Iowa's deputy secretary of agriculture. She joins me now from Des Moines. Welcome.

JULIE KENNEY: Thanks for having me.

KELLY: I want to start by asking what kind of calls you are fielding from farmers and ranchers in your state. What are you hearing?

KENNEY: Yeah, you know, this situation - of course, it continues to develop and change. So for example, in southwest Iowa, things have crested and, you know, we're moving more toward a recovery-type effort. And then when you look at places like northwest Iowa, we're looking at, you know, a bunch of snow melting and some additional rainfall from Minnesota that's going to have an impact in some of those communities. So all day, every day, we've been working to help service Iowans, do all that we can to help them deal with, again, a really terrible situation.

KELLY: So share a story or two with us, if you would, from some of the people who are in the thick of it right now.

KENNEY: Yeah. You know, we've got some acreages where floodwaters have just inundated their grain bins, whether they're storing corn and soybeans from the previous growing season. Those farmers are looking at those situations and trying to figure out what they will do once the waters finally recede because that grain won't be able to be fed to livestock or anything like that. So we have other farmers who have pigs or turkeys or cattle or other forms of livestock that they're just focused on the health and well-being of those animals and being sure that they can get food to them. Some of our county roads are in really, really bad shape, so to get feed trucks there has been a challenge. So we continue to work with farmers to deal with those types of situations, as well.

KELLY: I mean, are you talking to some farmers, some ranchers who are expecting this year just to be a write-off?

KENNEY: I don't think we're to that point. I mean, the planting season is just around the corner. Most farmers here would plant toward the end of April and into May, so we do have a little bit of time. But until those floodwaters recede and we really see what we're dealing with, I think it's way too early to consider things like that.

KELLY: But help me - just as we try to wrap our heads around this - get a sense of the scale of losses or damage that you're potentially looking at just in your state.

KENNEY: It's too early, really, to put a dollar figure on the kind of damage that we're seeing because, again, those waters are just starting to recede in some areas. In some areas, you know, we'll face additional flooding here over the weekend and into early next week. So I don't have a dollar figure for you, but I can tell you that at least in 41 out of our 99 counties, we've got disaster areas.

KELLY: What does Iowa need going forward from a federal level?

KENNEY: We will need resources from the federal level, for sure, and sooner rather than later. It's not just the grain bins or the livestock operation that they might have, but it's their home and their community and their neighbors that they're dealing with, too - so just trying to make sure that we're doing all that we can to help them work through this situation.

KELLY: That's Julie Kenney, deputy secretary of agriculture in Iowa. Thank you for your time.

KENNEY: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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