Under water last year, tens of thousands of Missouri River bottomland has been put back into production this year, though its productivity likely won’t return to normal for years.
Farm Service Agency officials estimate that floodwaters covered 90,000 acres of prime farmland last year. When floodwaters receded late last year, they left behind debris and sand. Farmers began work to restore the land in the fall and throughout a mild winter.
Nebraska FSA Executive Director Dan Steinkruger says Missouri River bottom farmers have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars removing the debris and sand and working the soil to return it to fertility. Corn and soybeans have been planted on much of the land this year, a year that features contrasting weather from last; hot and dry.
Steinkruger tells Nebraska Radio Network the expense and effort put into restoring cropland varies, according to the land.
“The farmers and landowners who had irrigation probably worked to get the irrigated land rehabilitated first, as opposed to dry land, because of the additional value and investment in that land,” Steinkruger says.
Farmers tackled the least-damaged land first. Some sowed cover crops to hold the topsoil and build back soil badly damaged by Missouri River floodwaters.
Steinkruger says much of the work to restore the land is expensive. Some farmers have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to return the land back to pre-flood conditions. Some cannot be fully restored. Others will take years to rehabilitate. The expense testifies to the value of the land, estimated to be worth between $6,000 and $10,000 an acre.
Of the 90,000 lost, about 60,000 have been returned to production.
Steinkruger points out some farmers lost more than farmland. He says it’s a testimony to the resilience of the farmers and their families to return to not just land, but homes under water a year ago.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:50]