Over the past few months the High Plains region has been hit hard by a powerful punch of snow, floods, heavy rains and now tornadoes.
None of this is new to anyone who calls the heartland our home. A recent trip to southeast Nebraska was a reminder to me of the challenges faced by rural neighbors. Several producers told of the misery of the snow that blocked pathways to feeding cattle in mid-March while simultaneously facing floodwaters.
While the floodwaters from that event have gone away, persistent rains that hit the Corn Belt remain in the news. Those producers who have not been able to plant corn are contemplating growing more soybeans. Conversations around the kitchen table are likely about alternative options.
The run up to Memorial Day and the days that followed were filled with reports of many tornadoes in Oklahoma, Missouri and Kansas that have brought significant damage to urban and rural areas. Media coverage often centers on urban areas but damage to individual farms is tough news for those of us who cover the agricultural industry. Each farmer feeds about 165 people so it does not take long to understand the consequences of Mother Nature’s course.
If a tornado or high winds cause $1 million damage to an urban company it is rightfully big news. Too often when a tornado strikes a rural area the most often repeated comment is “it moved away and fortunately only struck a few outlying buildings.”
However, those outlying buildings can house a $1 million investment in equipment needed to plant or harvest crops. The farmer not only has to scramble to line up his insurance and finances but he also has to replace equipment while checking adjacent fields for debris that can tear up equipment at an inopportune time.
The American system of modern food production is an operation entrusted to individual, self-sufficient entrepreneurs who now have crop insurance to help weather disasters. Yet, through all this chaos it does not take long to realize governmental entities face challenges.
In Kansas, the Army Corps of Engineers will release water from a system of reservoirs because dams are at near capacity. The Corps, which oversees the reservoirs, will ramp up outflows that will only add to misery downstream as the water ultimately flows into the Mississippi River.
The tape that fills the adding machine keeping tabs on all the costs is already in the red waiting for a new roll of tape. In driving across the Midwest the number of closed road signs is mind-boggling. Township and county officials will be planning many road and bridge inspections with the hope that major construction and replacement can be avoided. Those roads are necessary for the farmer to get his crops to town.
State legislators and federally elected officials, at least the ones who are going to be honest about it, understand that rising waters and violent storms put pressure on their purse strings, too. They are going to need our support to help all of us to get through this cross current.
Mother Nature is not going to be beat us but she sure is testing our mettle.
Dave Bergmeier can be reached at 620-227-1822 or email@example.com.