In a bizarre double-whammy, for the second year in a row, farmers in the so called “bread basket of the world,” the US Midwest, are once again facing hard times in their fields.
The men and women who would otherwise be planting this season’s new crop, are being kept off their land by rising waters from key rivers like the Mississippi and the Illinois, which have broken their banks and spilled into towns and onto valuable farmland along their routes.
Apples and peaches
I travelled to Calhoun County, Illinois, which is sandwiched between the Mississippi and the Illinois rivers – like an island.
It’s an area that is well known for its apples, peaches and also White Tail Deer hunting – the animals apparently outnumber humans by about three to one.
I was there to meet farmer Kenny Kronoble who was rummaging through one of his two barns – the other’s underwater – checking out three hundred dollar bags of corn seed that should be going in the ground now.
They are not because the soil’s too soggy on Kenny’s four hundred acre plot. Kenny told me.
“Last year at this time … everybody was pretty much done planting everything in this area it was up and growing.”
Every 20 years
Kenny says bad floods come on average every 20 years … though he reckons 2008 was pretty tough too but 1973 and 1993 are seared into his memory.
That is because in 1973 he graduated from college, and in 1993 he and his friends had a 20-year reunion.
It was at that gathering that they were laughing about the chances for high water this year, 2013. Kenny said lesson number one – don’t joke about flooding!
“Here were 2013 and we have a flood again.”
The irony is that last year there was drought in this part of the Midwest. The Mississippi was so low they couldn’t get the barges through … then it seems prayers for rain were answered.”
Business hit again
Farmers like Kenny and scores of local businesses have been forced to tread water hoping the levels will subside soon.
Robert Reed is President Calhoun County Farm Bureau that stands-up for farmers and their families.
He said: “If you have a bad year it will generally take you two to four years to make up for that loss.”
Kenny took me to the water’s edge in the motorised buggy he uses to get around the farm.
He tells me he is worried about rain in the forecast and the risk of more snow melt coming down off the mountains to the northwest swelling the rivers yet again.
“It’s all coming down the river to us … it is backing up the water on our farm fields … it is something we live with living along the river.”
So, as he stares across his farmland, Kenny must be reflecting on last year when there was too little water … fretting about this year when there’s clearly too much … and trying to guess what Mother Nature may have in store for him next year.