Blunt asks for disaster status for flooded land

Corn planted for birds was wiped out, but about half has been replanted so far.
Friday, June 15, 2007 | 2:00 a.m. CDT; updated 5:19 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

State government and some Missouri farmers are still dealing with May flooding along the Missouri River.

The river punctured and flowed over levees on May 11 into the wetlands of Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area south of Columbia, among other places. Floodwaters drenched about 850 acres of planted corn and soybeans, and the crops were lost.

On June 6, Gov. Matt Blunt sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns requesting that Boone and 28 other counties be declared natural disaster areas for agricultural damage due to the floods. The governor’s office said it should take the Department of Agriculture four to six weeks to decide which counties will receive disaster status.

Boone County was spared the worst of the floods. Most of the agricultural damage in the county ­­­­— about 90 percent — was at Eagle Bluffs, said Kim Viers, executive director of the Boone County Farm Services Agency.

One hundred acres of corn that would have been left at Eagle Bluffs as food for migratory birds was affected.

Fifty acres of the corn crop have been replanted, said Tim James, a wildlife biologist with Eagle Bluffs. With the loss of the corn, “we lose a high-energy food,” James said.

Private producers grow corn and soybeans on some of the conservation area’s 4,430 acres of public land. In exchange, they leave some crops unharvested for wildlife to eat.

Two farmers at Eagle Bluffs were affected by the loss. One has replanted; the other had not, James said. Although there may be less food for migratory birds next year, James does not expect it to make a noticeable difference in the quality of waterfowl hunting.

Two holes remain in the levees adjacent to Eagle Bluffs. “If the river hits flood stage again, we’ll take in some water,” James said.

The conservation area’s staff is repairing the levees and plans to finish in a few weeks.

If approved, the disaster area status allows Missouri farmers to apply for low-interest, emergency loans with the state’s Farm Services Agency.

Growers must suffer at least a 30 percent crop production loss to qualify for the emergency loans, said Janet Bollinger, a loan specialist with the state Farm Services Agency.

Earlier this week, Gov. Blunt’s office announced that his request with the Federal Emergency Management Association for disaster declaration for individual assistance for 17 Missouri counties and a disaster declaration for public assistance for 19 Missouri counties were granted. The declarations allow access to state and federal funds to repair homes, businesses and infrastructure, but not crop loss.

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