Farmers face flooding

MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: Today is Wednesday, June 5th. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day. Good morning. I’m Megan Basham.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Coming next on The World and Everything in It: Flooding.

It’s hit half the states in this country this spring. Farmers everywhere are feeling the effects.

BASHAM: And soon, you might be, too.  Harvests this fall probably won’t be so bountiful. That means paying more for things like corn and beef.

2019 WJI graduates Michelle Schlavin and Virginia Holst caught up with a couple farmers in northwest Iowa. Michelle brings us their story.

MICHELLE SCHLAVIN, REPORTER: Kyle Wynia’s farm sits in northwest Iowa—near the town of Sioux Center. He and his wife Ashley bought the property more than a decade ago. They have 350 acres of corn and soybeans, but Wynia considers his farm to be on the smaller side of average. Even in good times, he’s taken on part-time jobs to provide for his family of six.

But these aren’t good times.

ABC NEWS CLIP: Looking around Iowa now, farmers are adjusting their planting due to all the rain, they’re behind…

Last year, Wynia finished planting his corn on May 10th. He finished the soybeans two weeks later.

This year, he’s still waiting as a very wet May comes to a close.

WYNIA: They say you only get one chance, so you want to do it right.   

Planting crops too early in the season keeps them from taking root, and they may wash away. Seeds need good ground contact in order to germinate.

If conditions are too wet, tillage equipment will compact the soil. If the soil is too compacted, the roots can’t spread out properly.

WYNIA: You want to wait for the right conditions so you have the most potential yield. Your potential for yield goes down the longer you wait…

Wynia sells his crops to a local grain elevator. They require 15 percent moisture in the corn. If the season is wet, the moisture is higher and he has to pay to have it dried.

Wynia’s father encouraged him to pursue another career, but the appeal of farming was too strong.

WYNIA: We always kind of joked around with the friends that it’s like beating your head against the wall. Why do we keep doing it? Because we love it.

He says success in farming comes down to faith and prayer.

WYNIA: We put the seed in the ground and we spray it and God does the rest. You know…that’s all there is to it…We do the best we can with what we have and…then…God makes it grow…We just have to have faith that he’s gonna open a window to finish, let us finish planting and then, uh, bring the right conditions to grow that plant.

A few minutes down the road, Wynia’s friend, Jeff Van Voorst, is battling some different issues. But they’re also due to the rain.   

Van Voorst is a third-generation farmer. He lives in the same house that his father and grandfather did before him. He raises corn and cattle. All of their corn goes directly to their feedlot. But if the ground doesn’t dry up soon, he will have to buy more corn than ever to feed all his livestock.

The feedlot looks different today than it used to. The rain is one reason why.

VAN VOORST: We poured enough concrete that the cattle can get up out of the mud.

Van Voorst has been tracking the annual precipitation on his farm since he took over from his dad. The average rainfall in this area is just under 30 inches a year. He recorded nearly double that last year. And 20-19 is on track for even more.

VAN VOORST: Yeah. Rain, you know, in the Bible times and almost always, rain is seen as a blessing, a good blessing from the Lord.  And, uh, starting about a year and a half ago, we’ve just been getting way too much rain and it’s, it’s uh, it’s caused all kinds of challenges here on the, in the feedlot and in the fields as well.

As he walked out to the pens, his boots sunk in the mud.

It’s difficult enough to walk through, but can be perilous for heavy equipment.

Van Voorst has already put 15 dump-truck loads of rock on his roads. That way his equipment can get out to feed the cattle without getting stuck.

VAN VOORST: I’ve been spending some extra time with my wife and kids on some of these rainy days. Um, yeah, just a lot of praying for drier times, for a drier season.

Van Voorst is not the only one praying.

VAN SLOTEN: We’re thankful for abundant rain, but we ask that you would dry up the skies as you’ve done before. That you would send the rain to other places…

Churches are holding prayer meetings and even children feel the stress.

VAN VOORST: I’ve been trying really hard to keep a positive attitude around my wife and kids, but they know better. They, they know…that it’s stressful. My 9-year-old daughter told me yesterday, she said, “dad, maybe God wants us to trust him that we don’t need a crop of corn in the field to—for him to provide for us.

For WORLD Radio, I’m Michelle Schlavin reporting from Sioux Center, Iowa.

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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