Flooding Means Up To 75% Of Fields Unharvestable

Tom Mackland (right) and his son TJ had a stellar crop until extreme flooding stole yield and harvest potential. ( Sonja Begemann )

For the fourth time in nine years Crescent, Iowa farmer Tom Mackland is enduring extreme flooding from the Missouri River. He lost his home to flooding in 2011 and this year he will only be able to harvest about 25% of his crops.

“[The season] started out great, we got fencerow to fencerow planted,” Mackland said on AgDay. “By the end of June, we had the best-looking crop that I’d had in a long time.”

Not long after that, the season took a turn for the worst. Rain in northern states and snowmelt meant the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers had to open releases along the Missouri River. In late June the river crested in Omaha at about 29 feet. To add insult to injury, the water had finally receded when Mother Nature dumped 9” of rain on the farmer in late August.

“Ever since then it has been kind of a disaster, the water table is high, and the river is high, so we have a lot of crop yet that we can’t get to,” Mackland says. He estimates he’ll only get to harvest 500 of his 2,000-or-so acres.

As of the week of Oct. 16, the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers reports the Missouri River system storage is at 61.1 million-acre feet and in the Annual Flood Control and Multiple Use zone (see graphics for release point levels, too).


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C: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, current to Oct. 16

Gavins Point Releases will be at 58,000 cubic feet per second (CFS) for up to six weeks to evacuate stored flood waters. The Corp does note that flow can be adjusted if needed by downstream conditions. It recently proved that when it reduced the Gavins Point release from 58,000 CFS to its 46,000 CFS until heavy rains in lower parts of the Missouri River basin subsided.

Higher than average releases from all Missouri River Mainstem System projects will continue this fall.

“Due to this year’s high runoff and the water currently being stored in the reservoirs, Gavins Point releases will remain near 58,000 cubic feet per second for the remainder of the navigation season to ensure evacuation of all stored flood waters prior to the 2019 runoff season with much of that occurring before the river freezes over in the norther reaches,” said John Remus, Chief of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Missouri River Basin Water Management Division in a recent press release.

Just one mile from the Missouri River, Mackland said continued high water means he likely won’t be able to get into the majority of his fields until December at the earliest. And even then, he’s not excited about what he could find.

“If we can’t get at it to harvest it’ll destroy the crop because it won’t take the winter being snowed on,” Mackland explained. “So, quality I imagine anything, especially soybeans, standing in water will be destroyed even if the water does go down.”

Learn more and see the damage in the AgDay segment below.