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Iowa Farmer On Flooding's Impact


There's a lot more water in the Missouri River Valley than usual right now. It's because of rain on top of snow on top of frozen soil. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers expects more water this weekend but not quite the levels endured earlier this week, which led to towns being evacuated and farms inundated along the banks of the Missouri in Nebraska and Iowa. Don Rief grows soybeans and corn just off the river. He also raises beef cattle and joins us today from his home near Missouri Valley, Iowa. Mr. Rief, thanks so much for being with us.

DON RIEF: You're welcome.

SIMON: And I'm going to take it as good news that you're able to join us from home.

RIEF: Yes. We're fortunate that we don't live down on the farm.

SIMON: What are things like in the area?

RIEF: Everything in our area is busy. Traffic is rerouted to numerous locations. There's a lot of people confused on which way to go. There's water just about everywhere in front of my house all the way to the river.

SIMON: What do you know about your crops?

RIEF: I was able to ride a four-wheeler through the mud, and on some roads yesterday, the water really receded. We probably have grain, corn and soybeans in about 20 grain bins. I would say seven grain bins have broken and spilled the grain onto the ground. And it's full of water and soaked up. And we've got quite a mess to try to salvage.

SIMON: And what do you know about the cattle?

RIEF: Well, the cattle - they were moved, and we've lost a few in the melee. They're not used to the stress. Boy, some of these cattle, they've just had too much stress. We had one yesterday just stroke out before we got it on the truck to get it safe to higher ground.

SIMON: Mr. Rief, to your mind, is the weather certifiably, discernably, markedly worse today than it was, let's say, 10 years ago?

RIEF: It sure seems that we have more extremes. I think we have scientists telling us we're having a climate change, and I don't know if people really want to accept it, but I don't know. It seems like there's something to it to me. The warm air carries more moisture, and it seems like instead of drought conditions, we're getting wetter, wetter conditions in our area, higher measurements of rain events, more violent storms. I guess people need to, really, if you've got any money left, spend it on insurance.

SIMON: And you kind of been caught up in a tariff war, too, haven't you?

RIEF: Oh, yes. Each sector has to make a sacrifice, and the farming community has made a big sacrifice with this trade war. We've seen soybeans last year go from $10, $20 cash in Council Bluffs and Omaha to $8 - lowest prices probably in 15 to 20 years.

SIMON: And how is your family doing?

RIEF: My family's doing fine. I have a father that's 83, an uncle that we all farmed with - I guess he's about 78 years old - they've been through the flood in 1952. And they've been through this flood in 2011. And they'd hate to see it again. It seems like history is repeating itself all too soon, but it's hard for everybody to deal with so much damage.

SIMON: Don Rief - farmer from Missouri Valley, Iowa. Thank you so much, Mr. Rief.

RIEF: Thank you.