Midwestern States Struggling to Recover From Floods, Left Vulnerable to Coronavirus

Flooding near the Platte River, NE. Image: DroneBase/AP

by Zoey Shipley and Miro Korenha 


In Spring 2019, much of the Midwest was hit with devastating floods. Nebraska alone was faced with over $1 billion in damages to roads, local businesses, crops, and levees. Natural disasters like this have contributed to the crumbling of the rural economy and lack of investment in these regions have made them vulnerable to a multitude of shocks (from flooding to the coronavirus).

But the reality is that this historic flooding is no longer a once-in-a-lifetime event. This is the new reality that rural communities may come to face every year with our warming climate–and it’s an urgent threat for their already fragile economies. 

Why This Matters: The overlapping economic and environmental disasters are quickly becoming the new reality for all of rural America–regions where the environment and economy are intrinsically connected. Supporting rural farmers and helping them transition to regenerative farming practices that help sequester carbon has to be a part of our national climate agenda–much as Mayor Pete Buttigieg proposed in his rural plan

To date, most federal support (such as the China trade war bailouts) has gone to “farms with annual revenues of several million dollars” instead of local producers, who are the most affected by these disasters and also most willing to do their part to sequester carbon and fight climate change.

Coronavirus And Our Food: If last year’s floods weren’t enough of a strain on crop prices for smaller-scale farmers, the outbreak of COVID-19 could prove to be disastrous. So far, prices for crops and livestock have fallen between 2% (for wheat) and 13% (for cattle) and dairy farms have experienced a 25% loss due to school lunch programs being suspended in many states. As Midwestern rural communities are struggling to recover from natural disasters, they’re now far more exposed to the economic and health consequences of a global pandemic. 

What Comes Next: Local agricultural leaders are the stewards of their land. With extreme natural disasters, collapsing farm economies, and the growing threat of health pandemics all colliding together, food producers are struggling to stay afloat. In the next federal stimulus package, Congress needs to focus on farmers and local food production. 

The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition has laid out ways for leaders to do this, with a focus on issues like aid to local farmers and financial support to food system workers. 


  • Without this financial support for ALL areas of local food production to stay in business, resources to help local producers move to more sustainable practices, and more attention to the rural health crisis then all the world will feel the ripple effect from these disasters on rural areas.  



Up Next

Prairie Soil Could Play A Key Role in Reducing US Carbon Emissions

Prairie Soil Could Play A Key Role in Reducing US Carbon Emissions

An innovative way of decreasing our carbon footprint that is gaining acceptance is sequestering carbon in prairies, The Washington Post recently reported.

Why This Matters: To avoid the effects of global warming, scientists believe the world would need not only to cut out 50% of its greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, but also remove existing carbon from the atmosphere.

Continue Reading 436 words
Fire Crew Struggle to Contain California’s 25 Major Wildfires

Fire Crew Struggle to Contain California’s 25 Major Wildfires

The day after 200 people had to be air rescued by the National Guard from an oncoming wildfire in California, the LA Times reported that “helicopter crews braved dangerous smoke and flames Tuesday to reach more than 100 hikers, campers and other people stranded in remote locations of the Sierra Nevada by the destructive Creek […]

Continue Reading 367 words
Asphalt Could Be Releasing More Emissions Than Cars

Asphalt Could Be Releasing More Emissions Than Cars

In the heart of summer, hot asphalt in our cities radiates heat at night causing what’s known as the ubran heat island effect. But a new study published in the journal Science Advances that asphalt is releasing more than heat, it’s emitting harmful air pollutants, especially on hot and sunny days. As the New Scientist: […]

Continue Reading 439 words

Want the planet in your inbox?

Subscribe to the email that top lawmakers, renowned scientists, and thousands of concerned citizens turn to each morning for the latest environmental news and analysis.