Friday, Aug 01, 2014
Agri Leader

Floods may recharge soil for Colo. farms


Published:

JOHNSTOWN, Colo. - Surging waters in Colorado swept away barns, silos and fences and left houses covered in mud in this northern agricultural town. The flood waters were so powerful they uprooted irrigation pipes and spread them around the fields here, leaving lakes next to which cattle now graze.

They also brought instant relief to drought-hardened areas, with the promise of moisture restored in deep soils and the possibility of reservoirs refilling to help farmers well into next year.

"There is a silver lining if we look down the road," said Ron Carleton, the deputy commissioner of agriculture for the state. "We just have to get past these near-term impacts."

The damage to Colorado's multibillion agriculture industry - the state's third-largest at $8.5 billion last year - is vast: Aerial footage shows broad swaths of inundated farmland. Rows of crops up and down the South Platte River were submerged, including corn, lettuce, onions and soybeans.

"We've seen these rivers come up before. We've never seen it like this," said Ron Kline Jr., whose family runs Kline Farms in the region.

Carleton, who has been touring the flooded areas, said officials won't have a full picture of the damage until water recedes. However, they've begun to identify potential trouble spots.

"Just from driving around you see land underwater. That tells you a lot right there. It's land that's certainly not producing right now," he said.

On Kline's farm, the waters pushed a shed and the equipment inside down a road. A semi-truck and trailer was turned 90 degrees. A 700-gallon tank of engine oil is nowhere to be found.

"It's somewhere between here and Nebraska," said Kline, who farms corn, wheat and alfalfa.

Troy Seaworth, whose family owns Seaworth Farms in Wellington, on the northern edge of the flooding, is one of the farmers who will be looking to see how much water was captured in reservoirs. It will take time for that to become evident.

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