Johanns Hears Concerns from SE Nebraskans About Missouri River Flooding; Crop Insurance; Farm Bill
U.S. Sen. Mike Johanns strongly encouraged anyone affected by the Missouri River flooding to stop at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Disaster Recovery Station in Auburn.
Officials of FEMA and the U.S. Small Business Administration were in Auburn Friday-Saturday, Sept. 16-17 and Monday, Sept. 19. After being in Falls City Tuesday-Thursday, Sept. 22-24, federal officials will return to Auburn Friday-Saturday, Sept. 23-24 and Monday, Sept. 26.
“I was pleasantly surprised that individual assistance for Nebraska was part of the presidential disaster declaration. Whatever you are entitled to access, if it is worth your effort, you access it,” Johanns said.
“Whatever is available we want to make sure that those are entitled to get those benefits to get those benefits,” the senator said.
“We want to hear from you if you have any questions. We have worked with flood issues since May. We want to help you get whatever assistance is available,” Johanns said.
About 20 Southeast Nebraskans attended a session with Johanns at Arbor Manor Steakhouse & Lounge in Auburn. Attendees were from Auburn, Humboldt, Table Rock and Tecumseh.
Concerns presented to Johanns regarding the Missouri River flooding included: controlling water releases from dams; concerns about the value of land if flooding continued; that the flooding has taken away the past, present and future; some have spent considerably more time on the road because of road closings in adjacent states; concerns about a reoccurrence in 2012; hoping that disasters in other parts of the United States do not take FEMA money away from assistance from damage in Nebraska and the Midwest and that the road closings in adjacent states have hurt some businesses. Several who attended were directly affected by the flooding.
The senator said that there will be an upcoming hearing on the operation of the Missouri River system. Repairing levees and roads will be a challenge because of the short construction season ahead.
“We will do everything we can to get to the bottom of this. Since the dams were built, we haven’t seen flooding like this,” Johanns said. He said he recently became a member of the Senate Environmental Public Works Committee.
“We need to get some levee repair done. The levees have taken a beating. Levee repair will be ongoing in the foreseeable future. Roads will need to be repaired. It will be a challenge how much repair may be done before the end of the construction season. We’ll do all we can to work with the state and manage federal issues,” Johanns said.
Besides the Missouri River flooding, crop insurance, crop prices and the next Farm Bill were discussed.
Several attendees said that they were concerned about the future of crop insurance. Concerns presented included: that government officials will take over crop insurance, and that suggestions for crop insurance needed to come from farmers and producers rather than federal government officials.
“I agree with your view on keeping management local. I will do whatever we can do to keep local input, flavor and management in crop insurance. I will do all I can to see that local involvement continues,” Johanns said.
“When I was Secretary of Agriculture, my hope was that I’d live to see the day that the most important part of farm policy was crop insurance. It truly is a safety net,” Johanns said. He served as Secretary of Agriculture from 2005-08 under President George W. Bush.
The next Farm Bill will focus on maintaining and improving crop insurance, Johanns said.
The senator said that there may be some progress on the Farm Bill this year but that there were too many other issues ahead of it.
“We are seeing stronger prices than many anticipated during their lifetime in farming. There is more demand than supply. It looks strong. It looks encouraging,” Johanns said of crop prices.
He said that the input presented on the issues was helpful.
Accompanying Johanns to Auburn were Philip Erdman, state agriculture director for Johanns and Christine Anderson, the senator’s Nebraska press secretary.