Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Midwest Counts Cost of Flood an Uninsured Grower Copes with Midwest Deluge and Considers the Possibility of Bankruptcy

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Midwest Counts Cost of Flood an Uninsured Grower Copes with Midwest Deluge and Considers the Possibility of Bankruptcy

Article excerpt

FORTY days and nights of flooding in the upper Midwest has covered 16,000 square miles of farmland - more than a million acres of corn and soybeans, as well as wheat, oats, vegetables, melons, and hay.

"It's sunshiny today, finally," says Jeff Morgan, communications director of the Iowa Soybean Association. "But we're supposed to get rain again Wednesday through Friday."

The likely cost of the deluge depends on whether your feet are stuck in Midwestern mud, propped up on a desk in Washington, straining on tiptoe in the Chicago commodity-trading pits, or strolling grocery-store aisles anywhere in America.

In the southeastern Iowa town of Oakville, Richard Siegle farms 1,900 acres that lie between the levee holding back the Iowa River and the one holding back the Mississippi. The only items still in the Siegle home are the telephone, bed, and refrigerator. Everything else has been moved to higher ground.

If the levees broke, 1,200 of his acres of corn and soybeans would be submerged to a depth of 12 feet. He doesn't expect that will happen now. But he already sold uninsured grain he kept in storage to an inland grain elevator. He received 30 cents less per bushel than he would have from a riverfront grain terminal, if any had been open. "They gouged us," he mutters.

Meanwhile, Mr. Siegle worries about the water that seeps through the sand levees. He keeps eight pumps going to keep his land drained. Normally, only three are in service. "The cost is just going to be phenomenal," he says. Seepage prevented him from planting 120 of his acres.

Like 60 percent of farmers in the United States, Siegle does not have crop insurance, which he believes is overpriced. The insurance covers only losses beyond 35 percent, which another farmer likens to "fire insurance that only pays you if more than a third of your house burns down. …

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