Farmers like Clint Pischel, as reported by the New York Times, spent late March cleaning up the devastation to their family farms after what some are calling “the worst flooding in half a century.” Collecting the dead baby calves who’d been carried into frigid flood waters was just one of the heartbreaking tasks in the aftermath. It’s not only a grisly scene to experience — it’s also a punch in the gut to farm families who were barely squeaking by financially before the floods.
“When you’re losing money to start with, how do you take on extra losses?” Pischel wondered.
Farmers in the Midwest need to gird themselves for more losses
Sources like the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) have grim news for these families: Buckle up, because it’s not over yet. In late March, Ed Clark (NOAA’s director of its National Water Center) reported:
“The extensive flooding we’ve seen in the past two weeks will continue through May and become more dire and may be exacerbated in the coming weeks as the water flows downstream. This is shaping up to be a potentially unprecedented flood season, with more than 200 million people at risk for flooding in their communities.”
Courtesy National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association.
The impacts of flooding in the Midwest to last far beyond the season
In addition to the dangerous uphill financial climb these floods are causing for farmers, there is also a real physical effect to compound it: it will likely take decades to re-cultivate the soil that’s been stripped away in the waters.
“Basically what it’s going to do is going to erode the most productive topsoil,” said Mahdi Al-Kaisi, a soil and water specialist with Iowa State’s extension program. “This is why we need to think about climate change more seriously. That’s become very destructive to this whole system and put a lot of stress on these surfaces.”
The land needs time for excess water to evaporate. Sand that’s washed up from rivers into the soil needs to be tilled and redistributed. Some farmers might be in a position to stay and take on the work and the financial risk; others may have to cut their losses.
Curbing climate change is crucial to saving lives and livelihoods
Increasingly, there are signs and data suggesting a link between warming of the planet’s atmosphere and extreme weather events. A 2018 United Nations special panel report has warned us that we have only about twelve years to make serious emissions reductions — such as getting off of fossil fuels and onto renewable energy — in order to stave off the worsening effects of climate change.
For farming families like those in Nebraska and all over the Midwest, the changes have made clear that their way of life is in danger. Now the question is whether they can batten down the hatches while Americans take strong action to turn climate change around.
Will you add your signature right now to call for a strong Green New Deal that halts the expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure and moves us to sustainable, renewable energy? This is a fight we must win, because this planet is the only one we get.