DES MOINES, Iowa - Farmers in parts of Nebraska and Iowa are assessing the destruction after historic flooding in Eastern Nebraska and Western Nebraska. Most barely escaped fast rising flood water, leaving livestock and last year's harvest behind.
Clean up and starting over will be a struggle
Across parts of the Midwest, hundreds, even thousands of livestock are drowned or stranded; stored grain is ruined in soaked storage bins; and farm fields are like lakes.
The National Weather Service and NOAA say widespread flooding in the Midwest will continue through May.
“I would say 50% of the farmers in our area will not recover from this,” Dustin Sheldon, a farmer in Southwestern Iowa’s Fremont County near the flooded Missouri River, said this week. Sheldon says floodwater got into his farm bins, ruining about 75% to 80% of their stored crop.
He estimates that’s hundreds of thousands of dollars of revenue lost, money that is supposed to support three families and keep the farm running.
Livestock drowned and scattered
The flooding is blamed on heavy rain and the runoff from record snowfalls up north, pouring into rivers downstream in Iowa and Nebraska, and on down to Missouri.
Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts says it's the most widespread disaster in Nebraska history. Early farm damage estimates are likely low, $400 million in crop losses, and $400 million in lost livestock, according to the Nebraska Department of Agriculture.
In Iowa, after Gov. Kim Reynolds flew over flooded farms in a helicopter, she said she could see only the tops of grain bins sticking out of what looked like an ocean.
Farmers and ranchers have been especially hard hit. In rural eastern Nebraska outside of Omaha, farmer Eric Alberts tells WOWT-TV 6 that about 700 of his hogs drowned, many in the flooded barn.
He was trying to move the animals when he says the water suddenly rose over two feet within 30 minutes, and he barely escaped with his own life.
Six hog facilities were flooded with about 3,000 pigs each, but it wasn't clear if the animals survived.
Fields may not be good for planting
“More than likely, they will not be able to put in a crop this year,” because of flooding now, and because “we will not have time to do any levee repairs to protect this year’s crop,” Farmer and Hamburg, Iowa Fire Chief Dan Sturm said.
This has already been a hard time for Midwestern Farmers. Bankruptcy filings are up 19-percent, and the highest in more than 10 years . Midwestern farm bankruptcies were up 19% in 2018 from a year prior, and at the highest level in more than 10 years according to the American Farm Bureau.
Additional information from WOWT-TV 6 in Omaha and WHO-TV 13 in Des Moines.