Farmers who used to make their living from crop production in the Birds Point-New Madrid Floodway have learned a nasty lesson about the need for crop insurance.  There is no way to identify how many farms were intentionally flooded by the Army Corps of Engineers which did not have crop insurance.  Likely there were quite a few which were not covered, and unfortunately, farms without crop insurance do not qualify for the SURE disaster program.  And when the Birds Point Levee was blown open, the floodwater became a disaster for thousands of fields in Mississippi County, Missouri.

Farms in the now-famous floodway, which is awash with “a chocolate tide,” were at the will of the Mississippi River Commission and the Army Corps of Engineers, as well as Mother Nature.  Mother Nature may spill over its banks from time to time, but intentionally breaching levees was a human decision, and that is a different issue.  Those farms nearest the Mississippi River have likely been flooded before, particularly in 1993, when the Cornbelt received more rain than the Mississippi could quickly drain away.  Crop insurance may be an annual ritual for them.  However, farms further to the west, but still within the designated floodway, may not have had crop insurance, since the river never was a threat.  Sure, the 1927 flood gave rise to the creation of the concept of the Floodway, and the 1937 flood tested the concept, but it has been 68 years and today farm operators have little access to that institutional knowledge.

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said Tuesday, in a statement released by USDA, that “Working together, in support of our state partners, we will do everything we can to help mitigate this damage and protect the families, farmland and communities we serve.”  Many farmers will be seeking a definition of that, and will not delay.  Their families need to be fed, and the future is calling.

For those farm operations covered by crop insurance, Administrator Bill Murphy of the Risk Management Agency issued a clarification that the action of the Army Corps of Engineers was in reaction to a natural occurrence and insurance policy holders would be indemnified.

The SURE (Supplemental Revenue Assistance Payments program) is the permanent disaster program designed to assist farmers with the loss of crops and livestock during natural disasters.  Although the SURE program is administered by the Farm Service Agency, it would also be available to assist Missouri farmers within the Floodway.  However USDA’s factsheet on SURE says the requirement is that a farm is already covered by crop insurance, “To be eligible for SURE, a producer must have obtained a policy or plan of insurance for all crops through the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation and obtained Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) coverage, if available, from the Farm Service Agency. Forage crops intended for grazing are not eligible for SURE benefits. Note: Eligible farmers and ranchers who meet the definition of “Socially Disadvantaged,” “Limited Resource,” or “Beginning Farmer or Rancher,” do not have to meet this requirement.”

For other FSA programs, the Missouri State Office says some assistance may be available to recover from property damage and livestock death. Those programs include:

Emergency Conservation Program

Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP), 

Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees and Farm-Raised Fish Program (ELAP), 

Noninsured Disaster Assistance Program (NAP)

Supplemental Revenue Assistance Payments (SURE) Program.

Within the Natural Resources Conservation Service, USDA has allocated more money for program implementation.  Among them:

Emergency Watershed Program
USDA’s Rural Development agency may have many applicable loan programs for home and farm rehabilitation, however, the region must first be declare a disaster area by the Secretary of Agriculture.  As of May 4, that had not yet been done.

When a disaster has been declared, the Missouri Rural Development office will begin issuing program information.

The federal government offers a number of general assistance programs

Floodwaters quickly washed over 132,000 acres of Missouri farmland earlier this week, but there has only been a trickle of information from USDA about what programs are available to help farmers, who were not in the way of Mother Nature, but in the Floodway that was intentionally opened by the Army Corps of Engineers.

Source: The FarmGate Blog