Crops and soil threatened by floods in the Midwest

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Source: Environmental News Network (ENN)

Here, in some of the best soil in the world, the stunted stalks of Dave Timmerman's newly planted corn are wilting in what sometimes look more like rice paddies than the plains, the sunshine glinting off of pools of collected water. Although time is running out, he has yet to plant all of his soybean crop because the waterlogged soil cannot support his footsteps, much less heavy machinery.

Mr. Timmerman's small farm has been flooded four times in the past month by the Wildcat Creek, a tributary of the Cedar River which overflowed its banks at a record 31 feet last week, causing catastrophic damage in nearby Cedar Rapids and other eastern Iowa towns and farmsteads.

'In the lean years, we had beautiful crops but they weren't worth much,' Mr. Timmerman said, surveying his farm, which his family has tended since his great-great-grandfather. 'Now, with commodity prices sky high, mother nature is throwing us all these curve balls. I'm 42 years old and these are by far the poorest crops I've ever seen.'

And he added, 'It's going downhill by the day.'

As the floodwaters receded in some areas, they rose in others.

On Sunday, residents in Iowa City - where the Iowa River was nearing its projected crest and rising downstream - were struggling with the waters, which submerged part of the University of Iowa's campus and sent workers scrambling to move books and paintings from the university's Arts Campus.

'Certainly Iowa City has never seen anything like this before,' said Linda Kettner, a university spokeswoman. 'A lot of people have been displaced. It's a very poignant time. And at the University of Iowa, we've never faced a challenge like this.'

In Cedar Rapids - where the Cedar River crested at 31 feet on Friday - the water receded Sunday, but most of the downtown streets were still flooded.

But officials were worried that worse might lie ahead as the rain-gorged tributaries spill into the Mississippi River system, threatening scores of communities. The Mississippi is expected to crest by midweek or days later.

For Mr. Timmerman and the thousands of other farmers who have seen their fields turn to floodplains, the rain and flooding could not have struck at a worse time, and their plight extends far beyond the Midwest.

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