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Is This the Moon? No, it’s Missouri Farmland

This Business of Farming

Waters recede near breached levee, revealing crop fields that look more like the Badlands of South Dakota than productive acreage

Published on: June 15, 2011
Last month the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers blasted a hole through the Birds Point Levee in Missouri to save the town of Cairo, Ill., population 2,800. The blast blew a two-mile hole in the levee and instantly turned 130,000 acres of farmland into a muddy lake. The Mississippi River dropped by three to four feet.

Update as of June 27: 

University of Missouri economists estimate about $85 million in potential crop value lost from blowing out the Birds Point levee on the Mississippi River.

The university's Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute said Monday that the economic loss climbs to about $156.7 million when other economic changes are factored in. FAPRI estimated current-year plantings and potential yields based on U.S. Department of Agriculture records.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers blew up the Birds Point levee last month to reduce the flooding threat to Cairo, Ill. The levee breach flooded 130,000 acres and damaged or destroyed houses in southeastern Missouri.

Scott Brown, an economist with FAPRI, said the study applies to losses for the current year only and does not consider long-term impact or losses to infrastructure.

Here’s a look at what that once-productive farmland looks like now. Randy Sutton, who farms in Mississippi County, Mo., granted us permission to share with you these pictures he took recently.

About a third of the land that was purposely flooded looks like this, although some of the less-damaged land is already being planted back to soybeans.

Now there’s proposed legislation to give the Corps $1 billion for repairs with about $56 million of that to go to help farmers in this region.

It seems just a little strange that the government should destroy this land and then turn around and pay to fix it.