Agriculture Department recommends flood precautions for farmers

The beginning of March typically brings worries about spring flooding in Minnesota, especially this year. The Minnesota Department of Agriculture has begun distributing information on how to reduce the impact of spring flooding, including important contact information to use if your property experiences any damage.

Foremost, the Department is reminding residents to contact their insurance companies about flood insurance. Regular homeowner policies do not cover flood damage, but any specific flood insurance must be purchased 30 days prior to flood events. The window for receiving flood coverage for spring disasters is closing quickly.

In the very near future, the Department also recommends property owners review incident response plans. Aside from updating all emergency response numbers, farmers should update a current inventory of petroleum, fertilizer, pesticide, seed, feed, grain and equipment. Officials recommend measures to protect each of these items from flooding.

Grain: Grain that is threatened by flooding may be moved to sites that have not been pre-approved by examiners, but the Department of Agriculture should be contacted after the transfer has taken place. Inspections of temporary sites will occur after the fact – any grain that has been exposed to floodwater cannot be used for human consumption or animal feed.

Agricultural Chemicals: All tank valves should be closed and locked, and all tanks should be secured to prevent movement or damage. Small pesticide containers should be moved away or protected from floodwaters and drains. Waste pesticides in paper bags or older containers should be repackaged to protect from water damage. If any pesticides are damaged, they may not be put in the trash or dumped onto the ground.

Seed and feed: Seed and animal feed should be stored off the ground and bins should be sandbagged or diked. For seed, the department recommends keeping a copy of the labeling and an unopened seed container from each lot to preserve evidence in case a performance problem with that seed occurs.

Manure: If a manure storage facility has the potential to overflow, the owner must contact the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, 1-800-657-3864 before flooding occurs. If manure storage facilities do overflow, owners must contact the Minnesota Duty Officer at 1-800-422-0798. The department typically discourages winter manure application, but it is considered an acceptable option to remove manure from facilities that may be threatened by floodwaters or in danger of overflowing. The local Soil and Water Conservation District or the MPCA can provide more information on this.

Dairy farms: It’s recommended that dairy farmers contact their dairy plants for additional milk storage. Feed supplies should be protected from flooding, and the well should be protected from floodwater. Deep snow should be piled strategically so it will drain away from the lot rather than through it. Shallow diversion ditches and trenches or ditches beneath overhangs also can help direct water out of the cow yard.

In the event that flooding does occur, local emergencies should be reported by dialing 911. To request state assistance or report an agricultural chemical incident, a food or feed incident, or a plant or animal health emergency, contact the Minnesota Duty Officer at 1-800-422-0798. In addition, the Department of Agriculture has a list of programs that exist to help farmers recover from disasters. Contacts for those programs, as well as more information on all of these topics, may be found online at http://www.mda.state.mn.us/ under “Spring Flooding.”

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Senator Rod Skoe
Rod Skoe represents District 2, which includes all or portions of Becker, Beltrami, Clearwater, Hubbard, Lake of the Woods, Mahnomen, Otter Tail and Wadena counties in the northwestern part of the state. He chairs the Tax Committee.

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