An expert on Iowa agriculture says this summer’s flooding took a toll on Iowa’s livestock industry, but not in the way many may imagine. Harold Hommes, chief of the Iowa Department of Agriculture’s marketing bureau, says it wasn’t the high water, but the high grain prices that caused the most problems.
"The really tragic impact was because of the perceived shortness of millions of acres of Iowa farmland, corn and soybean — both — we had record levels of soy meal, soy oil (prices)," Hommes says, "and for the livestock producers at the time to get with that at time of extremely poor hog prices certainly it was extremely devastating to them."
Commodity prices spiked in June and July when there were fears lots of Iowa cropland was too swamped to yield a crop in the fall. "The rumor was we had three-plus million acres taken out of Iowa’s production. We typically do 22 to 24 million acres of corn and soybeans combined, so quick math tells you that’s well over 10 percent. That’s a lot of acres gone, potentially," Hommes says. "As it turns out, we ended up with a million or less."
Luckily, high commodity prices were shortlived so livestock producers should be able to rebound. Hommes estimates about four-thousand hogs died in this past spring’s flooding, but tens of thousands of hogs and other livestock were moved to higher ground.
"On 24, 48 hours notice, thousands and thousands of stock were moved on very short order. The trucks were moving," Hommes says. "In addition to those livestock trucks, imagine all the grain that had to get moved, so — yea, we dodged a bullet there."
Hommes testified earlier this month before a legislative committee that’s studying the impact of this summer’s flooding on the livestock industry.