Farmers Face Crisis Long After Floods Recede

Originally published on May 22, 2011 1:49 pm
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LIANE HANSEN, Host:

Greg Gabrielson was among the many farmers who had to test his ingenuity against rising waters. He's taken a break from planting to speak with us from his home near Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Welcome to the program, Mr. Gabrielson.

GREG GABRIELSON: Good morning.

HANSEN: Describe what happened on your land in 1993?

GABRIELSON: Well, I've got land close to the Rock River here and that flooded three different times. We did get some planted and then it drowned out. But what made the '93 so bad was even where the rivers weren't, it just kept raining so we were unable to plant.

HANSEN: Wow. What did you do when you realized that your land was about to be flooded? I mean, was there anything you could do to protect your home and your farm?

GABRIELSON: No.

HANSEN: No.

GABRIELSON: No, there's - you're pretty much at whatever nature is going to throw at you.

HANSEN: And so you just evacuated.

GABRIELSON: Well, the water came up close to our - yeah, it was actually on the green bins and right up to a hog house I have. But it - well, I'm on the little knoll here. We were a little island. I couldn't get to the highway in either direction. But it didn't get to the house.

HANSEN: But you did lose crops and acreage. How much did you lose?

GABRIELSON: Well, I had about 240 acres here that was all underwater.

HANSEN: And what crops would you plant there?

GABRIELSON: It was corn and soybeans.

HANSEN: And you lost the whole crop.

GABRIELSON: Basically, that year, yes. That year it just - it kept raining and raining and raining.

HANSEN: Wow. How long did it take for your land to recover?

GABRIELSON: It recovered the next year.

HANSEN: Ah. So it took a year. Were these losses permanent?

GABRIELSON: No, we're kind of fortunate. The way the river floods us, it fills up slow and then gradually goes over the road. And we don't have a lot of current with it so it didn't do a lot of erosion. I would say the only long- term effect was we had to pick picnic tables up and tires and trees and pieces of plywood.

HANSEN: To get those fields clear of debris, not just the water.

GABRIELSON: Right. And then even the following year, when I was combining in the fall, I ran a piece of plywood in the combine. How we could miss that, I don't know.

HANSEN: Do you have any advice for the farmers in the Southern States that are facing these damaging floods?

GABRIELSON: I think between the tornadoes and flooding, this is the worst natural disaster I think the United States has had.

HANSEN: Greg Gabrielson is a farmer near Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Thanks so much and good luck with your crops this year.

GABRIELSON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.