A flooded grain elevator. Photo: Jo Naylor

Blog | August 8, 2019

Farm Aid and Our Partners Help Farmers Recover from 2019 Midwest Floods

by Jennifer Fahy

Extreme flooding caused havoc for farmers across the Midwest and Plains this past spring. In response, Farm Aid activated our Family Farm Disaster Fund and many of our supporters stepped up to donate to our relief efforts. A recent blog post from the Center for Rural Affairs along with a press release from the Nebraska Farmers Union highlight the help that Farm Aid has given. Both organizations are long-time Farm Aid partners who received funds and made them available in $500 increments to farmers in their service areas.

So far in 2019, Farm Aid has granted $157,500 through our Family Farm Disaster Fund to assist farmers who experienced flooding in Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Illinois, Wisconsin and South Dakota.

Center for Rural Affairs recently interviewed Janna Feldman, owner of Doe’s and Diva’s Dairy, outside of Honey Creek, Iowa, about her experience after the flooding.

When flooding hit their area this spring, Janna says everything on their operation stood still. Flood waters washed out all interstates, highways, and gravel roads surrounding their dairy. People were unable to reach their place to attend classes and shop at their farm store.

“We are up in the hills, so we did not have direct flooding, but roads all around us were closed off,” she said. “What was normally a 20-minute trip turned into a two-hour drive.”

Because of this, Janna says her business has suffered financially.

“Spring is usually one of our busiest seasons, and the highest income producing time at the dairy,” she said. “Some roads are open now, but travel is still restricted, and we have only had a handful of visitors to the farm since the flooding.”

The devastation of the flood has not only affected visitors coming to the farm. Feeding the animals of Doe’s and Diva’s Dairy became a huge obstacle as well.

The hills around the dairy endured very hard rains, causing gullies to form and fences to wash out. The animals could not graze on the pasture, as per usual. Janna’s husband, Tom, works full-time off the dairy, so he didn’t have time to fix the problem areas right away. As a result, they had to buy hay to feed the goats and sheep.

But, even that was a difficult task.

“We couldn’t even go get hay, because our sources were gone—they got washed out by the flood,” said Janna. “We had to drive for hours and hours to get hay because all the roads were closed, and we had to take back roads and long routes to get everywhere.”

Though the flooding temporarily slowed down business, Janna keeps planning the next steps for her dairy.

“People see the pictures of flooding, and they automatically think everything is under water, but it’s so much more than people are aware,” she said. “We keep moving forward. We just entered the Iowa State Fair with our cheese, and every year we win some kind of recognition. We’re tough, we’ll keep going and doing the best we can.”

In their press release, Nebraska farm organizations thanked Farm Aid for our partnership.

Vern Jantzen, Chairman of the Nebraska Rural Response Council that oversees the Nebraska Rural Response Hotline, said, “Willie Nelson and Farm Aid have provided $75,000 of funding support this year to the Hotline earmarked for rural Nebraskans impacted by the historic natural disasters. All $75,000 has been used to help farm and ranch families in need through $500 grants. Farm Aid funding has been a real life saver for rural families.”

“In addition to stepping up with additional funding for the natural disasters this year, Willie Nelson and Farm Aid have been supporting the operation of the Nebraska Rural Response Hotline itself for 30 plus years,” said John Hansen, Secretary of both the Nebraska Rural Response Council and the Nebraska Farmers Union Foundation. “In 2019, Farm Aid provided $10,000 in base funding for the Hotline. Our unique Hotline is the longest continuously operating farm crisis hotline in the nation, first starting in 1984 in response in response to the ag crisis of the 1980’s. It is staffed by Legal Aid of Nebraska, administered by Interchurch Ministries of Nebraska, and is overseen by the Rural Response Council that is made up of members of the farm and faith community.  This ‘Nebraska Nice’ Hotline is collaboration and cooperation at its best.”

To thanks folks for their hard work with farmers affected by disaster, Willie Nelson invited them to his Lincoln, Nebraska, concert that took place on August 3. According to John Hansen, “thirty staffers from Nebraska Rural Response Hotline and Council, Nebraska Farmers Union Foundation, Nebraska Farmers Union and friends enjoyed the show from the front of the center section. Both Allison Krauss and Willie Nelson put on great shows and the folks, including Michelle Soll, who has been answering the Nebraska Rural Response Hotline for more than 30 years, thoroughly enjoyed the night and could not stop grinning!”

We are so grateful for the hard work of our partners to respond to farmers locally and help us ensure that the money we raise goes to the farmers quickly and efficiently, to do the most good.

Farm Aid has raised more than $180,000 for this disaster, and the remaining funds will be dispensed as we continue to assess the situation and understand what is most helpful for impacted farmers.

If you’d like to make a donation to ensure Farm Aid is ready to respond when disasters strike and support farmers and organizations in their efforts after a disaster, please visit farmaid.org/disaster.

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