Midwestern farmers have been gambling they could ride out the U.S.-China trade wars by storing their corn and soybeans.  However, devastating floods across the Farm Belt have drastically changed that scenario.  Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota, Kansas and several other states have all been impacted.  Early estimates of lost crops and livestock are approaching $1 billion in Nebraska alone and more flooding is expected.

As river levels rose,  farmers watched as the water consumed not only their fields, but their stockpiles of grains.  “I’ve never seen anything like this in my life,” said Tom Geisler, a farmer in Winslow, Nebraska, who said he lost two full storage bins of corn.  “We had been depending on the income from our livestock, but now all our feed is gone, so that is going to be even more difficult.  And, we have not been making any money from our grain farming because of trade issues and low prices,” Geisler said.

As prices plummeted last year amid trade issues, growers faced with selling crops at a loss stuffed a historic volume of grain in plastic tubes, steel bins, inside barns, and outside on the ground.  Much of all that grain has now been washed away or contaminated.  Under U.S. Food and Drug Administration policy, flood-soaked grain is considered adulterated and must be destroyed, according to Iowa State University.

“Some farmers have been waiting for corn prices to rise just 10 cents a bushel more before making sales, which would earn them a few extra thousand dollars, said Jeff Jorgenson, a farmer and regional director for the Iowa Soybean Association.  “This could end the farmers careers and the legacy of the family farm.”

The damage to Nebraska’s infrastructure, which is critical for the U.S. agricultural sector to move products from farms to processing plants and shipping hubs, is also of grave concern.  The damage to roads and bridges  means it will be harder for trucks to deliver seed to farmers for the coming planting season.  In some areas, the flooding of fields may render them all-but-impossible to use.

As of December 1, producers in states impacted by flooding had 6.75 billion bushels of corn, soybeans and wheat stored on their farms, 38 percent of the total U.S. supplies available at that time, according to USDA data.

Jorgenson surveyed more than two dozen local farms to access the damage and tallied about 1.25 million bushels of corn and 390,000 bushels of soybeans lost just in Fremont County, Iowa, worth an estimated $7.3 million.

Early estimates say Nebraska has $440 million in crop losses, Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts said.

In addition, high water on BNSF Railway Company’s main line has caused major disruptions across parts of the Midwest.  The roads are so badly damaged that Nebraska’s National Guard on Wednesday pushed hay out of military helicopters to feed cattle in Colfax country stranded by floodwaters.