June 21, 2008

Sarah Kirchner, Austin Daily Herald

OAKLAND TOWNSHIP — After the waters receded in the week since the June 11 floods, many farmers are now realizing the total damage done to crops and farmland. In an effort to understand the effects in southeastern Minnesota, U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar visited parts of Freeborn County Saturday, met with farmers affected and stopped at the site of the local flood’s sole casualty.

The senator saw Steve Kraushaar’s farm and the damage done to his land. Kraushaar said he lost 8 to 10 percent of his crop in the floods. He will try to replant soybeans, he said, but it’s risky this late in the season. Any corn crop lost is gone for good, he said, and he only expects half the yield of the replanted soybean.

“The dust settles and you see the long-term issues,” Klobuchar said, adding she wanted to tour the affected areas now that dollars lost are known.

Next week in Congress, she said, there will be discussions on getting federal aid to the many families, businesses and communities affected by the flooding in both Minnesota and Iowa, along with other Midwestern states.

Thankfully, Klobuchar said, the farm bill passed with permanent disaster funds for farmers in place. Congress is working on advance payments from the bill, she said.

“This is going to be significant financial hardship for our farmers,” the senator said.

Klobuchar said she will take back to Congress stories of the great efforts toward flood mitigation in Freeborn County and her first-hand observance of the flood damage to crops and local roads.

“It was great to see the efforts here and how they’ve recovered,” she said.

The damage in southeastern Minnesota and northern Iowa meets the threshold for a presidential declaration of disaster, she said. A request has been submitted to President George W. Bush from Gov. Tim Pawlenty, but as of press time a decision has not been announced. Such a declaration would make FEMA funds available for affected areas.

Klobuchar said hopefully help will come from Congress. This week Congress will discuss more than $2 billion in aid to flood ravaged areas nationwide.

Across the country, the senator said she heard reports of a 10 percent decrease in corn crop due to this month’s floods.

“I just think, because of what happened in Iowa, there will be a lot of discussions,” she said.

The senator — along with Freeborn County Commissioner Dan Belshan, London Township officials, the Kraushaar family and neighbors — visited the section of Freeborn County Road 34 where the road washed out and killed Dale Wangen.

“It puts things into perspective,” Klobuchar said.

Steve Kraushaar, his wife Linda and his 22-year-old son Sean are on the volunteer rescue team that responded to the call June 11.

In 2004, the same section of road saw a culvert wash out, but authorities caught the damage before it injured anyone. This time, the stream washed out a section of road 30 feet wide.

Saturday Klobuchar also visited areas in Austin that were affected by the floods.