Vast Storm Damage Threatens World Food Chain, The Sane Policy—Replant!
April 29, 2011 • 9:10AM

There is vast damage to farm operations—land, buildings, livestock, storage, and transportation—now worsening under the extreme storms in the Mississippi/Ohio Basins Corridor, and the 14-state region from Texas to New York. However, under Obama, the relevant institutions, especially the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), as well as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the rescue agencies, are still deployed, at best, in a disaster response-as-usual mode, instead of ramping up for the real tasks.

Lyndon LaRouche, on the LPAC-TV Weekly Report, put the food question forward concretely, in discussing the breakdown of not only the economic system, but of economic policy:

"What about the areas of flooding in this central region of the United States? We're now in the area of the planting season. What do these heavy storms do to the planting season?

"Now, what would you do, normally, under a sane economy with heavy rainstorms of this type, flooding the area, in terms of the planting system? You re-seed; you plant the seeds. What is going to happen now, under this government, and its policies? There is no funding for re-seeding. So you're going to lose significant parts of the food supply, at the source inside the United States, as a result of these floods."

- USDA Dismal in North Carolina, Arkansas -

LaRouche's words apply precisely to the Obama USDA record of non-action since mid-April, in the dire situation in Arkansas, North Carolina, and certain other areas, hit by terrible storm damage two weeks ago, well before this week's flood and tornado devastation! In North Carolina, for example, the crops (corn, soybeans, tobacco, some cotton), were already planted when the fields were hit. Instead of a mobilization, the USDA is offering only partial aid for livestock losses, partial aid for clearing fields of debris, and general inaction. Farmers, and county and state leaders are on their own, scrambling to do what they can, many just to survive.

In Bertie County, northeast N.C., for example, a farmer hired his own excavator-tractors and trailers to clean up the fields (at $100+ an hour), because he was desperate to re-seed a crop. State Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler met with 50 farmers two weeks ago in two hard-hit counties, after which Gov. Perdue approved deploying prison inmates. Eight crews of 70 prisoners from Pasquatank and Terrell Counties cleared fields, so that the crops could be re-sown in time for the season.

But all the best local and state improvising can't succeed, given the scope of the damage, and impoverishment of the states. On April 22—before the this week's epic tornado storms and floods hit—again striking the same eastern North Carolina farm counties, Troxler said, "The damage that we saw across central and eastern North Carolina is just devastating. This is one of the busiest times of the year for a farmer and these families can't put a crop in the ground because the tractors are mangled or the fields are covered in debris."

Nationally, there are precedents for mobilization of CCC-type brigades, under USDA, Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), AmeriCorps and related agencies to be deployed for disaster work of field clean-up, along with precedents for financial resources for seeds (including short-season hybrids), equipment, chemicals and other inputs, to see the re-planting and late planting through. The maximum effort is required to sow wherever possible, because some flooded acreage may not be usable this crop season, even if it drains off, because it is too silted up, lacking oxygen. The soil will have to be rebuilt. It is a policy question.

- Corn Planting Already Slow Before the Storms -

Only 9% of the U.S. national corn crop was planted as of just before this week's storms slammed the Mississippi Basin and other farm areas, in contrast to 46% a year ago, same time, according to the USDA April 24 Crop Planting Progress Report. This lag reflects the fact it has been too cold and wet in some of the northerly latitudes, to risk planting. Corn won't germinate in ground temperatures less that 50 degrees F; but waiting for a late start has other risks.

Now, some of the more southerly corn fields that were planted, are ruined by the storms.

If, by about May 15, 85% of the U.S. national corn crop is not successfully sown or re-sown, there will be higher risks that yields will fall in what's planted later. If good weather—dry and windy—prevails beginning May 1, farmers, with help and luck, could plant like hell. But this then, without Federal intervention, is a gamble, not a policy.

At present, the U.S. accounts for some 39% of world annual corn production, so what happens in the U.S. farmbelt—including the urgency to cancel corn-ethanol—is automatically a matter of the world food supply.