Governor Parson was joined by MOFB President Blake Hurst, Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, MDA Director Chris Chinn, and several other leaders for a roundtable to update Missourians on flood recovery efforts and find solutions to prevent future floods from happening. This week on Digging In we are bringing you these leaders’ comments from the roundtable in Orrick, Missouri on Thursday, April 18.
Eric Bohl [00:00:04] Welcome to Digging In with Missouri Farm Bureau. I’m Eric Bohl, Director of Public Affairs. Here at Missouri Farm Bureau we’ve been working almost nonstop for the past month and a half or so trying to figure out what we can do to help people that were affected by the flooding on the Missouri River and find ways to prevent it from ever happening again. One of the most recent things we’ve done was on Thursday, April the 18th. We helped organize a roundtable in Orrick Missouri. That’s in Ray County just a little east of Kansas City and west of Carrollton right on the Missouri River. Governor Parson was at that roundtable and he was able to go out on the levee and meet with some farmers and community leaders face to face and see where they were fighting the floods a couple of weeks ago and and talk to them about what they think needs to be done.
Eric Bohl [00:00:50] He was joined by our President Blake Hurst Congressman Emanuel Cleaver Director of Agriculture Chris Chinn, and Tom Waters who’s the president of the Missouri levee and drainage district association. Also USDA Rural Development Director Jeff Case was there as was J.R. Flores, who’s the Missouri State conservationist with NRCS The roundtable was held at the fire department there in Orrick. We’re extremely grateful to them and their team for loaning us their facility for an hour or two and helping to set up for the event it went off without a hitch. It was a great event.
Eric Bohl [00:01:26] And we also just think it’s extremely important for as many people as possible to hear what was said by their leaders and what their leaders are doing to help to help recover from the floods that have already happened and to prevent future floods. So today on Digging In, we’re going to bring you all those comments from the roundtable that our political leaders made and hear what they have to say about what they’re working on to prevent floods like this from happening in the future. So let’s get started.
Governor Parson [00:01:57] All right let me let me get started here. First of all just thank you everybody for coming today. Great to be here in Orrick today and great to be in a fire station – where’s Kelly at that runs this place or something? OK. All right. It’s good to be here today and thank all of you for being here today.
Governor Parson [00:02:15] You know up here in northwest Missouri, I think we’re trying to figure out for everybody’s sake what we can do differently. So let me just start off that. You know I’ve learned as I go through these areas of the state have we’ve been up here several times from the Governor’s office trying to make sure all our people are ready to help in whatever capacity we can. As far as the response goes.
Governor Parson [00:02:39] But right now I think the most important thing we’re trying to do right now is how do we change this and how do we prevent things in the future. And what’s really happening here and how are things changing. And I think as we see we’ve had a lot of people come to us and talk to us about different issues with the management of the river. We’ve all heard that. We’ve all heard discussion with the Corps of Engineers and those type of things. One of the one of the big concerns that I have as Governor for the state of Missouri is one – there is no oversight on the Corps of Engineers and I’m not here to say that it’s they’re doing the best they can or not but I’m telling you somebody needs to be able to go in there every once while and say, “Hey, is what you’re telling us correct?” You know and all of us including myself has oversight sometimes of checks and balances. And one of the things I think we should do is make sure the Corps is doing their job that they’re told to do.
Governor Parson [00:03:38] Now we also know that the main priorities of the Corps years ago for the management of the river whether it was for flood navigation those were the two main goals of the management of the river. We also know now, I think it was in 2004 where they made changes to that, to where it says now there’s eight priorities now to the management of that river and for the one thing we do know since 1993 and, some of you before that probably, but I’ll go back to 1993 and now we know 2011 2015 2019. Something is definitely changing with the management of that river you know and we got to be able to try to figure out what that is.
Governor Parson [00:04:21] That’s one of the meetings a couple of weeks ago I asked the Governor of Nebraska, the Governor of Iowa, the Governor of Kansas to meet with us as governors to try to figure out how can we do something together to see that we could make these changes. And for me it’s about putting, really, frankly, everything on the table we can put on the table and let’s see what we really have at the end of the day and see what changes we can make.
Governor Parson [00:04:43] But what I don’t want to do what I don’t want to do is I don’t want to be five years down the road coming back up here saying the same old speech after we’ve had another flood. That’s what I don’t want to do. And I think if there is an opportunity now to make changes it’s now because I think there’s a lot of people paying a lot of attention to us right now. And I think that’s important.
Governor Parson [00:05:06] So I want everybody else to be able to share some remarks here. More than willing to listen to what everybody has to say around the room and from the state portion, we want to do what we can to assist now and try to fix things from what the floods have occurred from the disaster we’ve have. And I know my director is here – Sandy, Director Karsten, Director Karsten, Ron’s here with SEMA over here, Ron. These guys I’m on tell you have did a great job for the state trying to make sure we get all the resources up here that we can and keeping me briefed at the Governor’s office and I thank both of you for what you’re doing and as much time as you’re spending up here to thank you on that. So with that I am want to let Congressman Cleaver have a few moments here to say a few words. And it will kind of go around the table here a little bit and we’ll come back and we’ll try to answer some questions whatever questions you might have and some things that we may be thinking about we can do in the future. Congressman.
Congressman Cleaver [00:06:02] Thanks Governor. Thank you for being here and to the chief and Tom Waters and Blake Hurst both, Tom hosted us here for a while a few weeks ago and I had a chance to sit down and meet with some of you who are here now. I have one issue that I’ll talk about and then pass the microphone back to the governor.
Congressman Cleaver [00:06:31] One of my big issues is what I consider to be this ridiculous requirement that we have now. And we’ve been in contact with FEMA about it and we haven’t gotten any resolution or any direction on how to resolve it. And it’s this 8.9-million dollar ceiling that we have to hit before we can readily receive aid. When the tornado hit here five years – four years ago – we had the same problem. I raised the issue then. And if you have to hit that eight point nine million dollar threshold before you qualify for aid, in some of the smaller communities it’s virtually impossible for us to do. And it’s wrong. And I I went on the floor of Congress a couple of weeks ago and made that speech and also sent communication over to FEMA and brought it up. I’m on the Homeland Security Committee which to which FEMA reports. And we had the FEMA director there. And I’m embarrassed to tell you that FEMA director could not answer the question, could not tell me why or what we could do to change it. I’m not going to you know back away on it. I think it’s wrong. It’s got to be it’s got to be done, and at some point we may need to have people to weigh in on that. So I’m going to stay on that and and be as supportive as I can to the community and to where the governor is going on this issue. Thank you.
Governor Parson [00:08:09] Thank you Congressman. Also the one says about the congressman and I’ve had a chance to meet with him several times for becoming governor. One of the things that I appreciate about him when it comes to agriculture issues and everything, he has a lot of rural district in his area but he’s always been very gracious to be able to listen from the aspect I guess of me being a farmer. I think he does give me my due credit for that. He’s always been willing to work with us on agriculture issues for the state of Missouri and I appreciate that.
Governor Parson [00:08:36] I want to turn it over to Director chin pure and just a minute. But one of the things that I also learned as governor in the state of Missouri, and maybe you know this maybe you don’t. And I know the representatives here, thank you for being here, and then some of this information. But 35 percent of the land in the state of Missouri is in “the federal flood plain.” Thirty five percent of our land. So now when you think of that mainly that’s agricultural land is what it is, for the most part of it, and how that affects our economy in the state of Missouri. And we have to rely on one agency to manage that for 35 percent of the land in our state. That has a huge impact. That’s why this issue is so important and it’s why I believe the states should have a seat at the table to have a discussion to see how we’re going to manage the rivers in this state. And there’s nothing wrong with changing things. We as farmers don’t farm like we did 30 years ago. Unless a lot of you guys are out there with no-cab tractors and stuff like that. But I will say most of you got pretty good combines and tractors anymore just like I got. But the reality of it is it’s OK to make changes sometimes and how procedures and how the management of things go and that’s why it’s important. That’s how much it affects our state. Director Chinn.
Director Chinn [00:10:00] Thank you Governor Parson. First I just would like to tell you guys that we’re here to help you at the Department of Agriculture and it’s not just the Department of Agriculture. It’s the entire cabinet team. Director Karsten has been a huge help to all of us in agriculture. She and I are in contact multiple times a week making sure that she knows what’s happening in the agriculture community. Keeping me abreast as to what’s happening at SEMA with the disaster declaration. And it’s not just Director Karsten. Director Carol Comer at the Department of Natural Resources. Her team has been working very closely with our team as well. We’re already looking at what we need to do to get out here to be with you guys to hear about what challenges you’re facing what you need from us for cleanup. You know it’s gonna be really important that we get some disaster many out here to you guys to help clean up the disaster in your fields the damage the debris that’s been left over. And it’s also gonna be important for us that we get a quick assessment of the damage from the Corps of Engineers. We need all of this to be able to move forward to rebuild and so we at the Department of Agriculture we hear from you daily.
Director Chinn [00:11:03] I know it’s been frustrating very frustrating just like Congressman Cleaver talked about that $8.9-million threshold; that’s hard to hit when we’re in our rural communities. But when you’re on the farm and you’ve lost your fields you’ve lost your bins full of your grain you don’t have anything to go sell to help you start over. This is important. And so we have been carrying your message forward. We’ve been in close contact with USDA making sure they know the challenges that you guys are facing, making sure they realize how important it is to get this levee system back up and running so that you guys can purchase crop insurance next year.
Director Chinn [00:11:36] You know these are things that we’re looking at long-term. It’s not just about this growing season. We want to make sure you guys are able to have future growing seasons and that we’re not the reason that you’re being delayed. So we’ve been working very closely with USDA. J.R. Flores with NRCS, we’ve been in contact with his office too. Everybody is willing to to be on the ground to help you guys to get back up and going. And it’s just as Congressman Cleaver said that $8.9 million has really been been the holdup for most of us.
Director Chinn [00:12:07] And so we’re prepared our teams are here to help you. If there’s a need that you see that you haven’t heard us talking about, contact my department. My Deputy Director Chris Klenklen is in the back of the room; he’s been working on flood issues, river issues, for 20-30 years at the Department of Agriculture and he’s one of the most knowledgeable people I think in the state when it comes to this issue.
Director Chinn [00:12:27] So we truly are here to help you guys. We want to be an extension of you, we want to share your story, make sure your voices are heard. And so we truly are here to serve you. And I just appreciate the Governor. You know he and I were, I think March 21st or 22nd, he and I were flying over the flood area because he wanted to see the damage for himself, and that wasn’t his first trip that was his second trip. And so I thank the governor for paying attention to rural Missouri. Congressman Cleaver you’ve always paid attention to roll Missouri as well. So we are very well-represented. We have good people here to help share your story. And just lean on us because that’s what we’re here to do is to help you guys get back up and going. We want to make sure that you had the assistance you need.
Director Chinn [00:13:10] Through the declaration disaster at Nebraska, Holt and Atchison County it has opened up for you guys for ECP program money now, so you can start signing up for that if you have land in Holt and Atchison County. And we’re waiting on disaster assessments from USDA right now for the Missouri Secretarial Disaster and we’re hoping that that information is sitting on Secretary Perdue’s desk right now waiting to be signed. So as soon as we hear anything back from USDA on that and I know they will be putting out a press release that we too will be putting out a press release and making sure that you guys know where you need to go to get the assistance to get back up and running again. Governor.
Governor Parson [00:13:49] Next I’m going to turn it over to Blake. Most of you know Blake Hurst here from Farm Bureau. I’ve just kind of got to know Blake and his family over the years a little bit and I’m telling you, I can’t think of anybody that advocates any better for agriculture than what Blake does. The places he goes to to represent myself as a farmer he’s done a great job over the years and what he’s done for the state. Especially being up here for this region in the state, because we’re a little close to his home turf, but glad you’re here today, Blake. Blake, you got a few things you want to add?
Blake Hurst [00:14:23] Sure. Thank you for being here Governor Parson, and we appreciate the interest that you’ve – you know, just concern. As Chris said, you were here immediately when we started seeing the flooding in northwest Missouri close to my home and you’ve kept in touch. Absolutely been accessible to all of us as we work through these problems. Congressman Cleaver is always a good friend of everybody in his district obviously but the farmers as well it takes a real interest in our industry and the challenges we’re facing with this flood. So we appreciate that as well. Good to see Representative Peggy McGaugh. And thanks for being here.
Blake Hurst [00:14:59] I had the opportunity yesterday to travel to Glenwood, Iowa, which is about 45 minutes north and west of where I live and right on the edge of the flood where the flood damage starts – actually it starts north of Omaha, but where it starts south of Omaha. Just tremendous damage all the way down the river, to clear to St. Joe really, basically, 175,000-180,000 acres under water with actual river. That’s not of course countless the seepwater and all the other problems that you all are facing. But 180,000 acres under water in the four counties up there. We talked about recovery we talked about the importance – this is in the Environmental and Public Works Committee – the importance of getting the supplemental disaster bill passed. It’s held up in the Senate now, so it’s good to have four senators there at least to listen just talk about it.
Blake Hurst [00:15:57] One of the things I think is going to be helpful as we work through this – one of the senators there was Senator Gillibrand from New York. She happens to be a member of the EPW committee but I think it’s safe to say that if it were not for the Iowa caucuses she probably wouldn’t have made that field hearing. We’ve got a lot of senators run for president. I hope every one of them is get an earful about river problems because there’s a chance, because as Tom said – we had a meeting with Senator Blunt on Wednesday – and as Tom said so correctly we’ve got to get support. I mean Governor Parson understands, Governor Reynolds in Iowa, understands Congressman Cleaver understands, but we’ve got to reach out to other states. That’s not a majority. Iowa, Missouri, Kansas and Nebraska are not enough to accomplish anything by themselves. So we’ve got to get more publicity, we’ve got to talk to more people.
Blake Hurst [00:16:53] There’s a tremendous amount of flood coverage. One thing about floods they’re very visual. We’ve got 850 grain bins under water, or at least have been under water, damaged by the flood in Atchison and Holt County. A huge elevator on the bottom, 3,000,000 bushels of grain storage, all of it damaged. That’s a visual that that helps us tell this story and that’s what we at Farm Bureau have been working on very very hard.
Blake Hurst [00:17:19] So we took a tour of the other levee here just a minute ago led by Tom Waters. And I have to tell you, I don’t think you can get a master’s degree in 10 minutes but if you could, the Congressman, the Governor, the Director and I would all be ready to get our diplomas because we’ve had a master’s degree from Mr. Waters, who’s the world’s expert on the Missouri River, in about 10 minutes. So it’s really – he helped put this meeting together, and obviously is the go-to guy for all of us the Missouri River. So Professor Waters, what’s on your mind?
Tom Waters [00:17:56] I don’t even know where to start, Blake. Well I think probably most of the people in this room know that I could talk to morning about the Missouri River. I appreciate being able to ride up and back with you. I know after me been in your ear, you were probably wishing that levee was a little closer to Orrick. But I did did have a great opportunity to visit with the Governor on the levee. But then in the car coming back, so I’m not going to talk a lot about the river right now. And I can answer questions and talk about some of the concerns I have later if you’d like.
Tom Waters [00:18:31] What I’d rather do is, you know, Farm Bureau put this meeting together for us and they they asked me to invite a few people. I almost was embarrassed to offer Orrick as a place to hold the meeting because we didn’t have any damage to speak of. You know we had levees that held and we didn’t even lay a sandbag on a levee here. So we were very fortunate, very very lucky. So I I look down the river where there were some communities that fought fought like hell. And so I kind of asked around and I asked who led the charges in those communities. So I invited some of those folks, and I wish I could have invited all those communities, because these were community efforts. But I just want to recognize a few of them. Kevin Castner is from the Carrollton area. Mike Harth is from the other side of the river from Carrollton, the Waverly area. Travis Matthews from the Norborne area and Scott Pfifer from the Hardin area. Max Hockemeyer from the Henrietta, south of Richmond, area. Drew Gill, kind of that same area with Max. These guys organized sandbagging efforts of hundreds of people and saved levees. They they had sandbags, some of them three and four bags high, holding the Missouri River back. Not an easy feat. And by doing so, they saved their levees, but they saved the state of Missouri and, Congressman, the federal government, literally millions and millions of dollars, saved from damages that could have occurred if those levees had breached. So I think everyone here and in our whole region here owes him gratitude, a thank you. So you know I would I would rather answer questions and have people talk to you. And you know I’ve had my chance to talk to you Governor and so I’ll just turn it back over to you and let’s open this thing up.
Blake Hurst [00:20:54] Alright. Did want to thank Jeff Case with Rural Development for being here. Jeff thank you. We’ve got J.R. Flores with the Natural Resources Conservation Service. You have a few comments you’d like to make?
J.R. Flores [00:21:10] Okay. Yes sir. Thank you. First of all I’d like to thank Farm Bureau for the invitation to be here today. And you know we’re working very closely with USDA, working very closely with Brent Hampy. I don’t know if Brent’s here today, I haven’t seen him, but I know that we do have a lot of resources to offer. We’re out doing damage survey reports right now. And of course you know we’re waiting, hoping that that there is a Presidential Declaration. And then of course you know you all have mentioned – Governor, you mentioned the disaster aid package that’s held up right now, but as soon as those resources become become available we’ll be able to really deliver here. We’re ready to go.
Governor Parson [00:21:53] One thing I want to tell all of you, most of you are farmers sitting around this table or have that ag background. I can tell that by looking, and kind of where I came from. But one of the things that I told a group of people the other day, as we all know you can’t always wait for government to fix things and to repair things. That’s just the way we are. And I remember not this last year when we had a drought down home but several years ago back that we had a really bad drought there. And we really was out of hay down there in cattle country, and we were trying to buy hay. Semis from Kansas that, some of it was frankly about as junk hay as you could bring into the country and some of it maybe was good.
Governor Parson [00:22:34] But the reality, is farmers always reach out to help one another. Those rural Missouri values at times like this is really what pays off, for us to get through these times like this. So what I want to say is thank you guys for doing it. It’s one of the reasons I want to be here as much as I can to be part of that solution process is as just another farmer, simple as that. Not as much the Governor, just a farmer. Because I know what that’s like to go through those tough times but the one thing I guarantee you we will do we will come out, and we’ll farm again. For most of us. Most of us. And you just gotta to keep that attitude, because there will be days that things do go right.