Yellowstone flooding leaves farmers and ranchers in heavily affected areas uncertain

By Eric Young

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CARBON COUNTY, Montana (Billings Gazette) – Recent flooding along the Yellowstone River has left major questions for Montana’s biggest industry.

The loss of equipment and livestock in addition to rising diesel, fertilizer and seed prices has placed Carbon County farmers and ranchers in more difficult circumstances than usual as they look to the months ahead. .

Rancher Scott Fleur owns land next to the gateway to the Orchard Canal outside of Bridger. The front gate burst in the flood last week and caused extensive damage to his property and the canal.

The inflow of water stopped just short of his store and house, but agricultural infrastructure including a private canal bridge, silos, a truck and a sedan were destroyed due to damage. His alfalfa crops were not excessively damaged, but were exposed to silt and brush from the river, rendering them unable to harvest.

Fleur also raises chickens and cattle. Most of the chickens drowned during his coup when water spilled out while the lost bridge prevented him from reaching his livestock.

“We were okay with the river flooding,” Fleur said. “We weren’t prepared for this.”

Concrete blocks brought in by helicopter were dropped to block water flowing into the irrigation system and a makeshift irrigator was installed to help control the flow of water. Without such actions, water would flow unregulated into the ditch, threatening to overflow or destroy the integrity of the canal.

Fleur and others along the Clarks Fork of the Yellowstone River Valley agreed that the main concern now was any further flooding before the head gate could be repaired. They fear further damage ahead of a potential drought could jeopardize water supplies for 400 people and 11,000 acres in the valley.

“We have to control this channel, said Fromberg Rancher Jay Stetson. “If we don’t reinforce that, the water will go through what’s already destroyed and destroy even more.”

Elsewhere in Carbon County, farmers and ranchers reported the loss of corrals, feedlots and horse paddocks due to flooding, along with some farms still partially submerged in water.

Looking ahead to the resumption of crops and livestock after the floods, there are still options available for those who may not have flood insurance.

The United States Department of Agriculture and the Montana Farm Services Agency offer disaster and emergency programs for insured and uninsured farmers, including the Uninsured Farm Disaster Assistance Program, the compensation scheme, the emergency loan scheme and the emergency conservation scheme.

These can provide farmers and ranchers with financial relief from events like last week’s floods through compensation for lost crops and equipment. Failing areas must be reported to the FSA within 15 days of the crop failure, but in some cases people may not be able to assess this type of damage for days after the flood.

“In areas where the water moved slowly and just covered the ground for a few days, you might not know if that crop was destroyed until several days after the water disappeared,” explained FSA state executive director Les Rispens. “Once it’s clear the acres have failed due to flooding, you have 15 days to file a notice of loss with the FSA.”

This means those affected by the floods should have time to file reports, but the real concern for farmers in the region is when exactly help will come.

Stetson said he and other farms and ranches in the area have already requested the available help.

“You’re looking at six to twelve months before any funds are actually received,” he said. “And don’t even get me started with SBA (Small Business Administration) loans.”

Despite this, the harvest season does not seem to be a total loss.

Carbon County MSU extension officer Nikki Bailey said crop damage was a concern along the river, but not necessarily for total yield percentage.

“It really depends on what part of the county the crops were in,” she said. This year.”

In Stetson’s case, 75 acres of his crops were under water at one point last week, but he said recent rain showers washed away silt from the river.

He admits recent events have added to other challenges, but added there is no reason to panic.

“There are people who worry about things like commodity prices months ahead,” Stetson said. “But we really won’t know until they’re sold out in the fall, so I’m not wasting my time with that.”

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