All eyes have been on the Mississippi River for the past couple of weeks as it has overrun its banks and left hundreds of people and acres of farmland flooded. Agriculture has been smack in the middle of the news as the Corps of Engineers in Missouri garnered headlines with its blowing up of a levee to flood farmland instead of homes. What’s rarely discussed is that the hundreds of acres of farmland that was flooded there and elsewhere will never quite be the same after a flood of this proportion.
Unfortunately, when rivers flood, they bring with them mixtures of chemicals, oil, trash, raw sewage and farm runoff. These pollutants usually end up on the fertile land they overtook. The soil, the lifeblood of many farmers, is damaged in multiple ways from these contaminants. It will take multiple years to regain the fertility of these lands, which could jeapordize some farming operations as the cost to bring the soil back into production may be more than the owners can realize.
Now that the flood waters are working their devastation down through the Mississippi River Delta area, more mainstream media are choosing to focus on the chemicals, fertilizer and farm runoff as a way of blaming modern agriculture for many of the problems.
The truth is, nearly every year the Mississippi River floods. As the climate over the Corn Belt and Mississippi River area has changed to wetter winters and springs, this has become nearly a yearly occurrence.
Once again this disaster will be used to paint agriculture with a black eye because that fertilizer and chemicals are needed but to some degree will end up in flood waters.
It is unlikely that agriculture can escape this blame game by the mainstream media. Instead, it has to clean up from the physical aftermath as well as deal with the public relations fallout. In the end, this is a lose-lose situation for agriculture.