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$40 million crop value down drain

Torrential rains that pounded five local Minnesota counties may have washed away more than $40 million in crop revenue, agriculture officials said Friday.

Torrential rains that pounded five local Minnesota counties may have washed away more than $40 million in crop revenue, agriculture officials said Friday.

In all, nearly 2 million acres of crops in the Red River Valley were damaged or destroyed, the Associated Press reported.

In Norman County alone, where last week's heavy rains and hail hit the hardest, farmers stand to lose about $36 million in crop sales, said Randy Tufton, executive director of the county's Farm Service Agency office.

"When the dust settles, I'm saying we lost half of our (crop) production in the county," Tufton said. "It's going to be an awful tough year for a lot of farmers around here."

As much as a foot of rain fell in parts of Norman County Sunday, flooding about 240,000 acres of farmland, he said.


Norman County's flooding was worsened by the swollen Wild Rice and March rivers, which carried rain water from nearby Mahnomen County.

The rivers spilled into already flooded fields, county Extension Agent Ken Pazdernik said.

Crop damage in Clay, Polk, Mahnomen and Becker counties ranges from slight to heavy. Some counties in southeastern North Dakota received heavy rains, but largely escaped flooding, extension agents said.

State and local FSA officials spent most of the week surveying overland flood damage in 12 northwestern and west central Minnesota counties and are preparing damage assessments, District Director Jerry Carlson said.

Lt. Gov. Mae Schunk requested Thursday that President Bush declare the 12 counties a disaster area due to flooding.

Schunk asked for government assistance in Becker, Clay, Polk, Mahnomen, Norman, Roseau Red Lake, Pennington, Beltrami, Lake of the Woods, Koochiching and Kittson counties.

On Friday, Bush granted a disaster declaration for those counties plus one more -- Marshall County.

In northeastern Clay County, as much as 20,000 acres of crops could be lost to flooding. Crops planted on another 60,000 acres are damaged and will lose yield, said Sharon Lean of the Natural Resources and Conservation Service in Moorhead.


Farmers in western Mahnomen County likely will lose about 40,000 acres of crops to flooding, said Curt Kozitka, executive director of the FSA in Mahnomen and Becker counties.

"There's a lot of farmers affected, but they're just really thankful," Kozitka said. "They realize the worst situation is in Norman County."

Most of the fields flooded in Mahnomen County have since drained off, county extension agent Ray Bisek said.

"That's the advantage of being at a higher elevation compared to the rice bowl of Ada," he said.

Polk County farmers stand to lose about 148,000 acres of crops to flash flooding, said Bruce Nelson, the county's FSA director.

Nelson said he has not yet calculated a crop loss estimate for Polk County.

In fields where crops are damaged, but not destroyed by flashfloods, farmers will be burdened with diseases and weeds, Kozitka said.

Farmers also have to deal with road washouts and soil erosion, Pazdernik said


"Probably the worst damage was the loss of our top soil," he said. "Even with all the crop losses, that might be more critical in the long-term."

Readers can reach Forum reporter Jeff Zent at (701) 241-5526

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