By now, most of you have likely heard about the floods that inundated the Midwest this month. Among those who were hardest hit by the rising waters were the farmers and livestock producers who rely on the flooded land. The majority of the coverage we’ve come across has focused on the devastating effect these floods will have on commodity crops like corn and soybeans (of which Iowa is the nation’s largest producer) and the industries that depend on them. While the benefits of industrial corn and large-scale hog operations are debatable at best, their shortcomings will have wider impacts on the larger agricultural community and food security as prices for food and fuel (remember ethanol?) are pushed up even higher.
Beyond this, what hasn’t been covered are the long-term ramifications of the floods on small, organic farms, for whom there are fewer federal safety nets, and on the general health of the region’s ecosystems. Kurt Michael Friese, of the Slow Food USA Board of Directors and Slow Food Iowa, writes of the impact on area farms and restaurants, like the CSA farmer who lost her 102 year old barn to the waters. For the residents of the Mississippi floodplain at large, the floodwaters have leached high levels of pathogens from fertilizers, pesticides and CAFO manure into the groundwater supply. Unfortunately for the long-term quality of the groundwater, flooding may simply encourage an even greater application of fertilizing chemicals in order to make up for the shortened growing season.
Frankly, we’ve been so overwhelmed by the damage suffered by farms that we were unsure how to approach it. However, we felt that it was time to get the word out about recovery efforts, now that aid has been organized for area farmers. Kurt Michael Friese has begun accepting donations through the Terra Madre relief fund until Slow Food Iowa decides how to best assist in recovery efforts. Additionally, Farm Aid has set up an Disaster Assistance Fund specially earmarked for Iowa family farmers. As we hear of more assistance efforts, we will post them here. In the meantime, please be generous if you have the means.