Many organic producers keep dry despite Midwest flooding
Published: April 5, 2019
Category: Market News, The Organic & Non-GMO Report Newsletter
By Camila Flanagan, members relation associate, Mercaris
As the devastating consequences of the recent flooding impacting the Midwest are being analyzed, one of the questions that many are asking is, “How will flooding in this agriculturally rich area impact production?” Early estimates calculate that farmers in Nebraska alone have experienced an estimated $400 million in cattle losses and $440 million in crop losses. In Iowa, Governor Kim Reynolds, in a letter to the President requesting a disaster declaration, stated that Iowa has suffered a nearly $1.6 billion loss from the Missouri River flooding, with about $216 million in the agriculture industry.
As Mercaris works to provide market access and services tailored to the needs of the identity-preserved agriculture industry, we have focused this same question and asked, “How will this flooding impact organic production?” To gain a deeper understanding of the impact flooding will have on organic crop production, Mercaris mapped the concentration of USDA Certified organic corn, organic soybean, and organic wheat farms per zip code along with flood stage data acquired from the United States Geological Survey (USGS). Combined, these data sources provide an insight into the impact of flooding on organic production across the United States.
Data from USGS was collected from March 3-24, 2019 indicating WaterWatch Stations reporting water levels in excess of five feet above flood stage. Flood stage is a “calculation of the stage at which overflow of the natural banks of a stream begins to cause damage in the local area from flooding.” Mercaris calculated the defined flood stage for individual USGS stations compared to current water levels and plotted feet over flood stage using a geographical heat map.
Current flooding is primarily concentrated along the Missouri River, with the hardest hit areas occurring in Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa, and Missouri. Mercaris found that while there are a number of organic farms that are located in these states along the Missouri River, the larger majority of organic farms are located outside of the currently impacted areas. Organic row crop production is historically concentrated in large areas around the Great Lakes region of the U.S. which has not been as greatly impacted by the recent flooding in the upper Midwest. The state of Wisconsin alone contains 15 percent of the USDA certified organic corn, soybean, and wheat farms based on Mercaris estimates, and has seen little of the destructive flooding experienced along the Missouri River.
Mercaris concludes that while the recent rains may have significant impacts on the general commodity market, the national impacts are likely minimal when it comes to the organic market. Regional impacts, however, are a different story, and as these communities continue to look toward the future, more information on the localized impacts will come to the forefront.