FLOODING of Midwestern farmlands in last year's torrential rains of April through September resulted in devastating losses for farmers in nine states: Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.
More than $2 billion in disaster aid has been made available to affected farmers and state agencies, with more coming.
This is no routine cleanup: The receding waters left broken levees and tons of silt and debris scattered by the rampant Mississippi and its tributaries. Soil, organisms such as earthworms, and other ingredients that over many decades have made the watershed a fecund bed for the production of corn, soybeans, and other staples will take years to rejuvenate.
What will the farmers, many with relatively small family operations, do? Can they bring enough of their land back into production to sustain themselves and build their farms back?
Some no doubt will, but others, unable to recoup enough to keep going, will likely have to sell to larger operators.
The United States Department of Agriculture has so far provided $1.6 billion to 318,079 farmers in the nine states who were unable to plant crops because of bad weather. Some have already lost their farms.
Led by US Secretary of Agriculture Mike Espy, the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service has dispersed more than $1,651,000 in emergency aid.
The Federal Crop Insurance Corporation has disbursed at least $986,035,971 in the nine states for crop losses.
The massive federal effort demonstrates the government's awareness of agriculture's crucial role. The Soil Conservation Service is committed to provide $25,043,000 for emergency watershed protection, with at least 897 projects.
The Rural Development Administration has pitched in with business and industry loans, and the Farmers Home Administration has obligated more than $1 billion for housing and other loans to farmers in need.
Secretary Espy and others in the new administration demonstrated vigor, know-how, and compassion in meeting the needs of farmers and the interests of all Americans in this emergency.
Our hope now is that the Mississippi's watershed event leads to new, more efficient, and less costly policies for responding to situations such as last year's crisis.