Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Don't Rush Farm Land out of Production

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Don't Rush Farm Land out of Production

Article excerpt

Breached levees for more wetlands or repaired levees for an adequate food supply? If you posed this question to people in countries where food is in short supply, they would choose food every time.

Here in the well-fed United States, the "wetland activist groups" are asking that more good farm land be put back into wetlands, under the guise of having more space for future floodwater in the Mississippi and Missouri watersheds. Many wetlands are sponges, but in flooded conditions they can only absorb so much water. The rest of the water that flows into them will have to run off to other low-lying ground. Wetlands are important in our ecosystem and bonafide wetlands should be maintained.

The push for more wetlands and less economic loss from floods sounds good unless you happen to be a farmer who has gone through the trauma of losing his crops to the ravages of the floodwater this year. Many of these same farmers are hearing that the federal government may decide not to rebuild the levees that were breached (or share in repair costs) and will allow this fertile farm land to flood again if the rivers rise above flood stage in the future.

Obviously it will be very risky to plant crops in these unprotected flood plains. It's a risk that these financially stressed farmers may not be able to take.

Thousands of acres of farm land outside the current levee system in the Mississippi watershed do allow the rivers to spread out during floods. Yes, the levees put more pressure on the mighty rivers, but they also protect many thousands of acres of prime farm land that help provide U.S. consumers with the cheapest food supply known to man.

The push by certain environmental groups to not rebuild levees and to allow this unprotected farm land to return to wetlands is not fair to the farmers involved. It might work if all farmers in an unprotected area decided to sell their land to the federal government, but what if only a few decided to sell? …

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