Thirsting for moisture just two years ago, Palouse farmers now wish the rain would stop.
“It’s 99 percent runoff,” said Dave Strong, manager of Latah County Grain Growers Inc. in Moscow. “This kind of moisture is not helping anyone.”
Flooding Thursday stopped Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp. from moving grain cars into the Palouse while farmers watched overrun creeks forge new routes across fields planted with wheat.
Up to 20,000 acres of Garfield County’s 75,000 acres of winter wheat, which is planted in the fall and lies dormant during the winter, may need to be reseeded this spring, said district conservationist Jeff Harlow.
Crops planted in the spring generally yield less than winter wheat.
“We’re definitely having some crop damage,” Harlow said from his office in Pomeroy. “There’s severe gullying and erosion. It’s worse in Columbia County.”
Garfield and Columbia counties each annually produce wheat, cattle, hogs and alfalfa worth about $19 million, according to the 1992 Census of Agriculture.
Whitman County extension agent John Burns reported little crop damage. But some agents have been unable to reach their offices, delaying flood-damage assessments by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“When you’ve got rapid melting and frozen ground, anything can happen,” said acting state conservationist Frank Easter in Spokane.
Easter said the Agriculture Department may offer emergency relief for repairing damaged dikes and watersheds, and reseeding flooded areas. But he said it was too early to know the costs of such repairs.
Marvin Carlson, spokesman for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said since Gov. Mike Lowry has declared the Palouse a disaster area, flood victims are eligible for state financial assistance.
Other property owners carry federal flood insurance, but Carlson did not know how many.