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Colorado Cleans Up While Rain Soaks the Corn Belt

posted on September 20, 2013

Work in Washington remains at an impasse as both sides of the aisle continue to argue about raising the debt ceiling, cutting supplemental nutrition assistance and creating a conference committee on the Farm Bill.

The House voted to cut $40 billion over the next 10 years from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps. The vote, largely along party lines, cuts SNAP benefits to nearly 4 million people.  The President says he will veto the legislation if the measure makes it to his desk. SNAP, which has a budget of nearly $80 billion, was split off the House version of the Farm Bill in July.

Also, the House passed a continuing resolution to fund the government until December. And – in a move made by the body for the 42nd time -- the measure also defunds Obamacare.

The Senate adjourned on Thursday without addressing these issues as the clock ticks down to the September 30th deadline when temporary extensions for the Farm Bill expire and the Federal Government runs out of money.

There were no signs, as yet, that any work was being done to create a House-Senate conference committee to resolve issues with the Farm Bill.

Farther west, more tangible work continues as Colorado residents are sorting out the details following nearly a week of heavy flooding.  Farmers and ranchers are already performing the arduous task of assessing property damage and searching for loved ones still missing or unaccounted-for.

Colorado Cleans Up While Rain Soaks the Corn Belt

As the flood waters subside, farmers and ranchers in Colorado are trying to figure out how much damage was caused by last week’s rainstorms.

Gushing waters swept away barns, silos and fences, leaving behind mud covered houses in several communities including the area just north of Boulder, Colorado.

As many were airlifted out of the danger zone to safety, crews continued their search for the more than 200 people that have been unaccounted-for or missing for nearly a week.

The water was so powerful it uprooted irrigation pipes and spread them around farm fields near Jamestown, Colorado, just north of Boulder. Small lakes have replaced hay fields.

Ken Seeley, Jamestown, Colorado: “Oh gosh, five times more water than I've ever seen here.”

The heavy rain did bring some relief to the drought-hardened area, recharging soils and reservoirs which should help farmers well into next year. However, the amount of rain that fell came at a price.

Ron Kline, Jr., Johnstown, Colorado: “We're lucky. Basically all it did was re-arrange everything. It re-arranged all we had here. It flooded the house. We got sediment in the shed and the shop.”

Agriculture is Colorado’s third-largest industry worth $8.5 billion annually. The damage done last week is still being revealed, but acres of corn were either heavily damaged or destroyed by the surge of water.

On Ron Kline’s farm near Johnston, Colorado the waters pushed a shed and the equipment inside down a road. A semi-trailer truck was turned sideways by the rushing water and its 700-gallon load of engine oil was swept away.

Ron Kline, Jr.: “If you figure where a lot this came from, a lot of the cities and industrial areas, and everybody has designated storage areas for the hazardous wastes. Everyone does it according to the EPA and does it by the book. When that much water comes through, nothing is safe. It's going to be carried on."

In nearby Weld County -- where cattle, grains and produce contribute nearly $1.5 billion to the state’s annual agricultural income – farmers are concerned about potential damage to their crops. There is no word yet on the total amount as officials continue to assess the situation.

According to the Drought Monitor, the rains erased huge water deficits in the Centennial state. This week, 64 percent of Colorado is in some form of drought. That’s down nearly 30 percent from the previous week.

Rains across the rest of the country improved conditions slightly dropping the national average nearly six percentage points to 43.1 percent.

Any rain that fell after the cutoff for Drought Monitor calculations will recharge parched soil but will likely have little impact on this year’s crop beyond delaying the harvest. 

Tags: Colorado corn Corn Belt drought Drought Monitor Flash flood Jamestown news soybeans temperature USDA weather