Midwest farmers' struggles compounded by devastating floods

Just days after historic and devastating flooding in the Midwest that left three people dead, Vice President Mike Pence will travel to Nebraska on Tuesday to survey the damage caused by the heavy rainfall.

Currently, more than 70 cities in Nebraska have issued emergency declarations, while more than a dozen states have issued flood watches and warnings. The total amount of damage is already worth hundreds of millions of dollars and is expected to continue rising as the Midwest braces for additional flooding.

But in no place is the damage more apparent, perhaps, than the farming sector. For farmers and ranchers in the Midwest, the floods came at a particularly bad time, in the midst of falling incomes, rising bankruptcies and the negative effect from a year-long U.S.-China trade war, as first reported by the New York Times.

The number of farms filing for bankruptcy already spiked, following low prices for corn, soybeans, milk and beef, according to analysis from the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. In the 12-month period ending in June, 84 farms filed for bankruptcy in Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana -- double the number over the same period in 2013 and 2014.

Lanni Bailey and a team from Muddy Paws Second Chance Rescue enter a flooded house to pull out several cats during the flooding of the Missouri River near Glenwood, Iowa, U.S. March 18, 2019. Passport Aerial Photography/Handout via REUTERS. ATTENTION

Now, some of these farmers have lost their livestock as a result of the devastating flooding. Some farmers, the Times reported, said they’ve been separated from their animals by walls of water, while others are unable to get into town for food and other supplies for the livestock.

Although it’s unclear what the exact economic toll will ultimately be, Steve Wellman, the director of the Nebraska Department of Agriculture, estimated it could be close to $400 million for the state’s livestock sector, according to the Times.


Agriculture is the leading industry in Nebraska, contributing more than $25 billion to the state’s economy. There are more than 49,100 farms and ranches, sprawling across more than 45 million acres and account for 92 percent of Nebraska’s total land area, according to Farm Flavor. Its main exports include cattle and calves, corn, soybeans, dry edible beans, hay and wheat.