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Slow-moving flooding disaster to expand along Mississippi River through mid-May

Written by TF Staff on .

AccuWeather reports as a surge of water continues to flow downstream, flooding will occur along the middle and lower Mississippi River through the middle of May and perhaps to the end of the month in some areas.

While some areas along streams and small rivers have born the brunt of the slow-moving flooding disaster in recent days, communities along the Mississippi River from Missouri and Illinois to Louisiana and Mississippi will be racing against rising water over the next couple of weeks.

The larger the stream, the longer it takes for flooding to cycle through. Small creeks in mountainous or hilly areas can flood in a matter of minutes and hours, while the largest rivers in nearly flat terrain sometimes take days and a week or more for water to drop below flood stage.

Torrential rain from the last weekend of April set the flooding disaster in motion.

During late April and early May, record flooding occurred at some locations, including along the Black river at Pocahontas, Arkansas; Current River at Doniphan, Arkansas; Meramec at Sullivan, Steelville and Eureka, Missouri; and the Gasconade at Hazelgreen and Jerome, Missouri. Levees in some communities were breached or topped by high water levels.

Rainfall during the middle days of this week brought a second surge and crest along small streams and tributaries of the major rivers.

This new surge of water will also prolong the rise and recession of the Mississippi River and lower portions of the Missouri, Illinois, Ohio and White rivers. The high water levels will continue to impact river navigation and port operations.

This weekend, the Mississippi River at Cape Girardeau, Missouri, will crest near or just shy of the record of 48.9 feet set on Jan. 2, 2016, according to data compiled by National Weather Service hydrologists and the United States Geological Survey.

At St. Louis, where some highways have been closed due to high water, the Mississippi is not expected to drop below flood stage until the middle of next week.

Farther downstream, a crest at major flood stage is forecast at Osceola, Arkansas, later next week.

At Memphis, Tennessee, while only minor flooding is forecast, the Mississippi River may remain above flood stage from the middle of next week to beyond the middle of the month.

Areas farther south along the Mississippi River in Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana may not experience a crest until the third week in May. River levels in some portions of these states will reach moderate flood stage and may not drop below flood stage until nearly the end of the month.

Meanwhile, a portion of the Black River in northern Arkansas may remain above flood stage into early next week.

Areas along the White River in Arkansas will experience major flooding through this weekend. Waters along the White River may not drop below flood stage until the third or fourth week in May.

It may take many weeks until flooded farmland is workable, but the weather may cooperate in the short term.

"No significant rain is anticipated to fall over the middle and lower Mississippi Valley from this weekend through the middle of next week," according to AccuWeather Lead Long-Range Meteorologist Paul Pastelok.

The extended rain-free weather will help some communities with damage assessment and cleanup operations, while communities over the lower Mississippi will have fair weather to prepare for the flooding to come.

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Income on decline

Written by TF Staff on .

Net farm income will likely fall for the fourth straight year in 2017, and the farm debt-to-asset ratio is rising. Even with a modest recovery in agricultural income in 2018 and beyond, pressure on farm finances is expected to continue.

The good news? Grain and milk prices could see slight increases in 2017.

Those projections summarize the latest analysis of national and global agricultural trends from the University of Missouri’s Baseline Briefing Book released in March. Based on market information available in January, the comprehensive report is prepared annually by economists with the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute and the MU Agricultural Markets and Policy team.

“The world is an uncertain place, and commodity markets will continue to be volatile,” said Patrick Westhoff, director of FAPRI. “We use our models to develop a range of projected market outcomes that takes into account some major sources of uncertainty about future supply and demand conditions.”

The report gives policy-makers, farmers, agribusinesses and the public an overview of the state of the U.S. farm economy and serves as a point of reference for policy analysts, he said.

FAPRI’s most recent briefing includes declines in corn and wheat acreage and production in response to price decreases caused by record crops in 2016. Corn prices are projected to increase to $3.60 per bushel for the 2017–18 marketing year and $3.71 per bushel from 2018 to 2026. Meanwhile, shifts in relative prices are likely to push up soybean and cotton acreage in 2017. Strong export demand has supported soybean and cotton prices in 2016–17, and soybean prices are projected to average $9.57 per bushel in 2017–18.

Cattle and hog prices are expected to decrease due to large domestic supplies. Although milk prices have dipped since 2014, stronger international markets could buoy prices in 2017.

Other key results from the report include:

  • Net farm income has declined by 48 percent since its 2013 peak. It may likely increase in 2018 and later years.
  • Lower farm income and rising interest rates result in lower projected land prices and farm asset values. The debt-to-asset ratio increases from 11 percent in 2012 to nearly 14 percent in 2017 and 16 percent in 2026.
  • Agricultural risk coverage payments are expected to decline rapidly, largely because of reduced guarantees tied to moving averages of past market prices.
  • Crop insurance net outlays are projected to average about $8 billion per year for fiscal years 2018–2026.

The full report is available at www.fapri.missouri.edu.

Agriculture budget cuts run deep

Written by TF Staff on .

Under the Trump administration’s proposed budget released in mid-March, USDA would face a steep, 21-percent cut in “discretionary” spending.

Among programs and personnel potentially on the chopping block are rural clean water initiatives, county-level USDA staff, conservation programs, food safety, the National Forest System and research grants, according to the White House budget document.

The $4.7 billion in cuts would leave USDA with a budget of $17.9 billion. The proposed reductions do not cover “mandatory” spending established by law, like farm subsidies and food stamps, only “discretionary” programs where lawmakers can adjust spending.

The budget proposal provided little information about how the cuts will be carried out, but more details are expected to unfold when a traditional full budget is released in mid-May.

Stewardship could land you $10,000

Written by TF Staff on .

Missouri farmers, ranchers and other private landowners who voluntarily demonstrate outstanding stewardship and management of natural resources will have an opportunity to win a $10,000 award for their efforts.

Applications are now being accepted for the Leopold Conservation Award Program, recognizing those who have made extraordinary achievements in voluntary conservation. Nominees will be evaluated on such criteria as conservation ethic, innovation, adaptability, resilience, leadership and communications.

Administered by the Sand County Foundation, a non-profit conservation organization, the awards have recently come to Missouri for the first time through a partnership with Missouri Farmers Care and the Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council.

“This action fits Missouri Farmers Care’s role in educating and advocating for agriculture’s hardworking farm and ranch families and their history of responsible stewardship of the land and resources from which they derive their living,” said Alan Wessler, chairman of the MFC board and vice president of feed for MFA. “Those same families strive to ensure that the land and its wildlife environment are well taken care of to pass along to future generations.”

Given in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, the Leopold Conservation Award provides a visible forum where farmers, ranchers and other private landowners are recognized as conservation leaders. In his influential 1949 book, “A Sand County Almanac,” Leopold called for an ethical relationship between people and the land they own and manage, which he called “an evolutionary possibility and an ecological necessity.”

Missouri’s inaugural Leopold award will be presented at the 2017 Governor’s Conference on Agriculture in December.

Applications for the award must be postmarked by July 1, 2017. Visit www.leopoldconservationaward.org for more information and details on the application process.

EPA chief visits Missouri power plant

Written by Steve Fairchild on .

The Environmental Protection Agency can do its job without killing jobs. That was the message from EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt at the Thomas Hill Energy Center near Clifton Hill, Mo., today. The coal-fired electricity plant is owned by Associated Electric Cooperative Incorporated, which generates power for Missouri's rural electric cooperatives. The Thomas Hill facility has some 239 employees and an annual budget of $200 million, a significant contributor to the economy of Randolph County in rural north central Missouri.

"The war on coal is over," Pruitt said. "The war on fossil fuels is over." Pruitt added that the United States has grown proficient in providing clean energy, something that should be celebrated. Pruitt outlined the measures the Trump administration has taken to roll back controversial rules from the EPA including Waters of the United States regulations that would have drastically increased regulatory oversight of land use across the nation. "Land is your most important asset," Pruitt told the crowd. "I know that. You know that. Washington D.C. doesn't know that."

The visit to Thomas Hill Energy Center was part of Pruitt's "Back-to-Basics" tour, which has included a trip to a Pennsylvania coal mine and a stop at the USS Lead Superfund site in East Chicago, Indiana.

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