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Iowa Floods Wreak Havoc on Farming Communities

After heavy rains triggered massive flooding in Iowa, some farms were completely submerged, causing heavy crop and livestock losses. Elizabeth Brackett reports on how one Iowa farmer is coping with the damage.

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  • ELIZABETH BRACKETT, NewsHour Correspondent:

    Jeff Boyer never imagined that one day he would be riding over his corn fields in a fishing boat. But early Thursday morning, he and his wife, Barb, were doing just that, as they went to assess the damage to what had been a highly productive 1,000-acre family farm.

    The farm sat just below the convergence of the Iowa and Mississippi Rivers near the tiny town of Oakville, Iowa. Five days earlier, the Boyers and their neighbors lost a frantic battle to save their homes and farms when the levee that had held back the Iowa River broke, submerging the entire town of Oakville and flooding 17,000 acres of prime farmland.

  • JEFF BOYER, Farmer:

    I believe, right through there, you see a set of roofs. I believe that's my other hog building.


    In the days leading up to the levee break, Boyer managed to move out last year's corn from the silos, but there was no place to take his 3,500 hogs. As the rivers were rising, he and his family tried to turn the pigs loose to fend for themselves, but with no success.


    I was trying to push some sows out the door so that they would have a chance to live. And the current — I don't know if they were panicking, but they were — you were putting them out the door, and they were coming back in the door, actually, and knocking you over. So we had to make the decision that we probably needed to start getting back out of there.


    Was it pretty hard to walk away?


    It was the hardest thing I've ever done.


    The Boyers, like all those who farm in flood plains, knew there were risks. Still, they were stunned when the levee gave way. After all, the last time the area had lost a levee was in 1947. Even in the great flood of 1993, the Oakville levees had held.

    They were so confident of the levees they bought neither flood insurance or crop insurance, although they did have a policy that would pay if the hogs died.

  • BARB BOYER, Farmer:

    Did we think we'd flood? Of course not, who — I mean, not to this devastation. You know, maybe a foot or two, I was thinking, or, you know, something like that, but not like this.