US disaster aid won't cover crops drowned by Midwest floods
The Black Hawk military helicopter flew over Iowa, giving a senior US agriculture official and US senator an eyeful of the flood damage below, where yellow corn from ruptured metal silos spilled out into the muddy water.
But it has no program to cover the catastrophic and largely uninsured stored-crop losses from the widespread flooding, triggered by the “bomb cyclone” that hit the region in mid-March. Congress would have to pass legislation to address the harvests lost in the storm, according to Northey and a USDA statement to Reuters.
“It’s not traditionally been covered,” he said. “But we’ve not usually had as many losses.”
Indigo Ag, an agriculture technology company, identified 832 on-farm storage bins within flooded Midwest areas. They hold an estimated 5 million to 10 million bushels of corn and soybeans - worth between $17.3 million to $34.6 million - that could have been damaged in the floods, the company told Reuters.
Across the United States, farmers held soybean stocks of 2.716 billion bushels as of March 1, the largest on record for the time period, the USDA said on Friday. Corn stocks were the third-largest on record.
Some Congress members have expressed interest in pursuing legislation to provide aid for damaged crops in storage, Northey said. But passing legislation could require a lengthy political process in the face of an urgent disaster, U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley told farmers at a meeting in Malvern, Iowa.
“If we have to pass a bill to do it, I hate to tell you how long that takes,” said the senator from Iowa, who joined Northey on the helicopter tour.
With farm incomes declining for years before the flood, many farmers had planned to sell their grain in storage for money to live, pay their taxes or finance operations, including planting this spring.