Amid fall flood woes, North Dakota declares statewide emergency

Amid fall flood woes, North Dakota declares statewide emergency
Copyright 2019 CNN
North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, left, and state Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring discuss the water issues facing the state.

North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum signed an executive order declaring a statewide flood emergency as he and other officials held meetings in communities affected by high water.

At a gathering in Fargo Monday morning, Burgum and state Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring talked about the unprecedented nature of the water issues farmers and other are facing across the state as wet conditions have all but stopped the fall harvest in its tracks.

Burgum said North Dakota was experiencing conditions “we haven’t seen before across the whole state.”

Sarah Lovas, whose family farms near Hillsboro, N.D., told the group of officials, which included Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney and West Fargo Mayor Bernie Dardis, that she was grateful her farm had been able to harvest about 9% of its soybean crop at a time when many in the region have not been as fortunate.

Lovas said the worry isn’t only for this year’s crops, but also next spring’s planting, which she said may or may not be possible given saturated soils that have prevented many typical fall activities, including the application of fertilizer.

Extension service officials attending the Fargo meeting warned that haying has been deeply curtailed because of water and the potential for a severe shortage of livestock feed looms in the not-too-distant future.

Goehring agreed that a lack of silage “is going to be a real issue,” and he warned that farm stress is becoming more and more an issue.

In tough times like the ones farmers now face, Goehring said the tendency sometimes is for growers to go quiet and not share their concerns with loved ones out of fear of burdening them.

However, he urged farmers to fight such impulses and instead share their thoughts with those closest to them as a way of sharing the load.

“We don’t need another travesty in our community,” said Goehring, who along with others at the meeting stressed that resources are available for people in crisis, including the 211 help line.

And Goehring had these words for farmers worried about what the future might bring:

“Take a deep breath, and hold on,” Goehring said. “You can call me, too. That’s been happening a lot.”

In addition to Fargo, Burgum and Goehring planned to visit with people in Grand Forks, Jamestown and Fessenden to hear firsthand about potential impacts of this fall’s unusually wet weather.

Information was being gathered for possible requests for a USDA secretarial disaster designation and a presidential disaster declaration, Burgum said.

“There’s an economic hardship that we’re facing here relative to this fall’s harvest that is likely unprecedented,” Burgum said. “We have a whole team of people across the state who will be activated as part of our whole-of-government approach.

“Any agency that can help will be helping,” Burgum added.

As of Monday morning, eight counties and four cities in North Dakota had issued flood emergency declarations, with more expected.

Places where emergencies had been declared included the counties of Barnes; Cavalier; Grand Forks; LaMoure; Stutsman; Traill; Walsh and Wells and the cities of Grand Forks; Jamestown; LaMoure; and Valley City.

Last week, the city of Fargo offered the city of Jamestown thousands of sandbags from its stockpile and late last week workers from Jamestown arrived in Fargo to take the city up on its offer.