Raising Big Muddy May Hurt Farmers
It will be an act of man when the federal government raises the river level this spring. But, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has ruled it will take an act of God for insurance to cover Missouri farmer if their crops are flooded.
The Army Corps plans to raise the river level to encourage the pallid sturgeon to breed. But, farmers worry the water line could be higher than their insurance bottom line.
"We're talking about excess moisture or excess rainfall, and obviously those are natural," said Eldon Gould of the USDA, "and that's the basis of all crop insurance policies."
Others argue the man-made plan is meant to mimic Mother Nature, so the government should treat damage claims the same.
"This is their livelihood," argued William Bryan of the Missouri Attorney General's Office. "They thought they had fought this issue, and that, if worst came to worst, they would at least have crop insurance for about half of their damages. And now they've been told it's not even half that. So it's adding insult to injury."
The Corps says additional releases would raise the river by no more than three feet.
"It's unfortunate that these folks would pay for crop insurance, and not know if the money was well spent until after the spring pulse," said William Bryan. "The Corps is asking us to trust them, and I hope we can trust them, and I hope they're right."
The Army Corps of Engineers planned releases in March and May from reservoirs in North and South Dakota. Now, the Corps said, it probably won't release water in March.