Months of Flooding in the Midwest Will Affect Crops

If it feels like you’ve been reading headlines about the Midwest flooding for months, it’s because you have.

An unprecedented rainy season paired with some infrastructure failures have left communities underwater since March. And in some cases, more wet weather is expected. Weather officials estimate waters could remain high into July.

For some, it is a reminder of the catastrophic and famous floods of 1993, which devastated the Midwest. Some communities never fully recovered.

These floods have been terrible for humans and for farm animals. Poultry in particular have not fared well. And larger farm animals have been caught in fast-moving flash floods, along with slower waters that rose around farms where people lacked the resources to get animals out. It also has been very bad for crops, forcing farmers to repeatedly delay start dates for planting or to finally plant, only to get flooded again.

Some people are making a meme out of it #NoPlant19 to highlight how far behind they are on spring planting and discuss the implications for their yields. Some are only just now starting to get seeds in the ground for crops that should have been planted in March. Corn definitely will not be “knee high by the Fourth of July” in some parts of the Midwest.

For individual farmers, that is obviously bad news. While some insurance products are available and some people are waiting on federal aid embedded in a bitterly contested disaster-funding bill that just passed Congress farmers are still looking at big losses in 2019. Some worry this also could affect the food supply.

The good news for consumers is most of the delayed crops are not food. They include crops grown for the production of alternative fuels, as well as feeder crops for animals. And alternatives are available from other sources, which should keep pricing and supplies steady. But some experts think meat prices might rise especially red meat because of a combination of flood-induced factors.

Still, this should be viewed as a warning sign. This will not be the last time prolonged flooding affects agricultural communities. And at some point, floods like these definitely could disrupt the food supply. On the low level, they might require people to make do with substitutions while a preferred food is temporarily too expensive or not readily available. But over time, extreme weather could more fundamentally undermine the food supply.

Farmers around the world are struggling to adapt to climate change. They’re thinking about changing what they farm and how with an eye on making their practices more sustainable. That in turn might affect the way many of us eat, as the foods we think of as ubiquitous might be less so in a shifting world. In addition to flooding, farmers also have to cope with drought, extreme cold and other weather events that affect their crops.

With a string of terrible tornadoes, an early and active hurricane season, prolonged flooding and a predicted severe wildfire season in the West, some might say this will be an unusually difficult year. They’re not wrong, but at this point, it’s no longer unusual. We are living in the world climate change wrought, and we need to make plans to deal with it.

Photo credit: Chris Boswell/Getty Images

53 comments

Dan Blossfeld
Dan Blossfeld13 hours ago

Freya H.,
Those theories of changing weather patterns leading to the downfall of past civilizations are centered around long-term droughts. Recent climate change has resulted in declining drought.

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RK R
RK R14 hours ago

Worse is the sand brought in by the floods and deposited in the fields.

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Bill Arthur
Bill Arthuryesterday

Freya H; you do realize that the article was discussing the wet weather and flooding that is preventing growing of crops which are important to vegetarians maybe more so than for omnivores. Crops or plants are all vegetarians eat so that requires planting annually for most and especially for plants like legumes/beans that are necessary in a vegetarian diet to get essential amino acids to replace those that nature left humans dependant on animals meat to acquire.

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Freya H
Freya Hyesterday

All the more reason to go vegetarian. Remember that, when you eat any kind of meat, you are eating the plants that creature ate. It takes approximately 15 kg of grain and/or grass to make 1 kg of beef. Thus, by cutting out the middleman (er, middlecow, middlepig, middlechicken, etc.), you cut back on the amount of corn, wheat, beans and the like farmers need to grow.

Yes, Dan B and Steve F, farmers have been dealing with extreme weather since the dawn of agriculture. However, when extreme weather events become more frequent and more devastating, we should be concerned. Changing weather patterns helped lead to the downfall of many past cultures, including the Anasazi, the Indus Valley civilization, the Maya and the Khmer.

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danii p
danii pyesterday

Thanks for sharing.

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danii p
danii pyesterday

Thanks for sharing.

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danii p
danii pyesterday

Thanks for sharing.

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Chad Anderson
Chad Andersonyesterday

Awful.

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Joemar K
Joemar Karvelis1 days ago

Thanks

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Ash S
Ash S2 days ago

Midwest Madness. 🌾

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