No corn. No beans…No nothing: ‘The river does what she wants’

Bill “Fox” Davis and his grandson, Tyler, point out how far back flood waters reach. The road leading to their grain bins in the background is submerged, and they estimated that water was 8 to 9 feet deep were they were standing. Three-fourths of their acreage is under water but all of it is too wet for any farming.

Follow the Davis family throughout the entire year. Each month, look for updates about the family members and the decisions they make on their farm.

MCCLURE, Ill. — Flood waters over Davis Farms acreage is so deep that it has white caps as the wind blows.

“We might as well be fishing,” joked Tyler Davis.

Actually, the 24-year-old farmer has been scrambling the past week to help his family and friends in Union County sandbag threatened barns and homes as well as move around equipment and supplies and position pumps to beat yet another crest on the Mississippi River.

The Davis Farm acreage is literally boxed in by water — from the Mississippi and the Big Muddy rivers and creeks, seep water that leaks from under surrounding levees because of high water pressure and from rainwater forced to stand on fields from topped out water tables.

“The river crest really doesn’t matter as much because we’re getting stuck with seep water. Not only that, we’re getting a rain every other day. Between the seep water, the rain and the river being high, the water won’t go out, and it’s not going to go out until the river gets really low,” explained Bill “Fox” Davis, Tyler’s grandfather.

Even with an ideal situation — a low Mississippi and no more rain — Fox estimated that it would take three weeks for their acreage to drain.

“If you look out this window right here, we’ve probably got 6,000 to 7,000 acres of that water. Three-fourths of our operation is under water,” Fox said.

For the Davis’ there’s only one conclusion to this planting season.

“No corn. No beans. No cotton. No rice. No nothing,” Tyler added.

Counting Losses

By the time the high waters, arrived Davis Farms had only 138 acres of cotton planted. All of it has been underwater for weeks now.

“Just about the time we have a ridge get dry, here comes another rain,” Fox recalled.

The planting cut off date for crop insurance on cotton was May 25.

While they have the insurance, they were entering only their second season with cotton, so the likely insurance coverage return will be small.

The other sting mentioned by Tyler was their plans to plant 1,000 acres based on highly successful harvest last year.

Between the crop insurance and federal government’s farmer support payment, Fox said the money “isn’t going to be pay the bills.”

Because of previous flooding issues, the farm years ago adopted a routine to order its seed and have the respective companies hold it in off-site storage and call for a truckload at time when they’re ready to plant. Their reserved cotton, rice and corn were bought back.

Fox said this process might be more expensive at times, but in the long run it affords them the flexibility to return seed as well as protect their investment.

This also has reset the clock on their equipment retirement plans. With a year of little use, Fox figures that’s another year of use.

What’s been more valuable to this family farm operation is Fox’s practice to “save for a rainy day and always put a little money back.”

In the meantime, they have “mowing, mowing, mowing,” Tyler said. “Usually, we’re behind with mowing because we’re out in the fields. Not this year.”

As far as thinking about next year and making decisions for the 2020 season, Fox said he, his sons, and Tyler will continue their approach.

“Next spring when the wind starts blowing, we’re going to do the same thing and take it one day at a time,” he said.

Waiting

Regardless of the situation, Fox says he cannot complain or point any fingers at any one factor.

“Who would have thunk that the river would be up this long or that we’d have this much rain. If you would point your finger at one certain person, it would not be the right thing to do. We’ve just got a lot of things against us, with the mighty Mississippi as No. 1. If the Mississippi wouldn’t be up, we might only have a little water in here,” Fox explained.

“We had a wet fall. We had a wet winter. We’ve been more than wet this spring. So, you put everything together between rain, the river — there’s basically nothing to say or do,” he continued.

Sure, there’s been plenty of flooding in their parts but the biggest difference has been the Mississippi. The last disastrous flooding was after Christmas 2016 — “the river raised fast and fell fast. That’s not happening here,” Fox said. “Even at my age, you don’t get used to it.”

He has faith that the levees on and around the property will hold, but he’s cautious: “I think we do have good levees, but they have a lot of pressure. Anything could happen.”

“What do you do? What can you say,” Fox said. “You get up in the morning and look at the water. When’s it going to get dry? Well, it’s up to the ol’ Mighty Mississippi. The river does what she wants.”

Karen Binder can be reached at 618-534-0614 or kbinder@agrinews-pubs.com. Follow her on Twitter at: @AgNews_Binder.

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