Levee Blast Symbolism


There’s a bumper sticker available on the internet that reads, “The Bigger the Government the Smaller the Citizen.” I thought about that bumper sticker shortly after I heard that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had decided to blast a hole through the Birds Point – New Madrid Floodway, in southeastern Missouri on May 2.

The result from the blast was the intentional flooding of more than 130,000 acres of fertile farmland (most of it already planted to corn or soybeans), nearly 100 homes and valuable grain storage facilities, machinery sheds and irrigation equipment. Yet, water flowing into this spillway after the blast reduced water levels elsewhere along the swollen Mississippi River and Ohio River confluence, helped relieve pressure on levees protecting the towns of Cairo, IL, Paducah, KY, Cape Girardeau, MO, and possibly others, thus protecting more populated places than the area in this particular floodway.

The Corps simply did what was in its authority to do: flood a spillway area in a sparsely populated area to save the property and possibly the lives of people in more populated areas. Some would say that if you live and work in a government-designated floodway, then you should expect that it will be used as intended when the circumstances dictate it. Others could respond that it’s wrong to give an unelected person in the government the power to cause a small minority of Americans (farmers) to suffer at the expense of the majority (city dwellers). 

At this point, I have to tip my hat to Kevin Mainord, who grows nearly half his corn and soybean crops in the New Madrid Floodway, which is still largely underwater. Rather than taking on a bitter, finger-pointing attitude about the levee blast, Mainord is focused on rebuilding, replanting and salvaging what he can from the flood. See the accompanying article in this edition of the Corn E-Digest, entitled “Hope Still Floats On Flooded Acres.”

No, were I in his place, the cynic in me would probably argue that if all these city dwellers didn’t want to flood, then they should use their own tax money to build bigger and stronger levees to protect themselves. Instead, farmers in the spillway now have to pay the price for the inadequate foresight of those living in the cities.

Yes, the cynic in me sees the levee blast as symbolic of a recent pattern in which government agencies are increasingly making decisions that are destructive to those who are trying to make a livelihood from the land in order to please a populace that understands very little about what it takes to grow the food that feeds them. I tend to believe that as our government has continued to grow bigger and bigger, the significance of the individual citizen has grown smaller and smaller, particularly those citizens who live and work in rural areas.

You’re welcome to do an online search to read my previous editorials for recent examples of how either the U.S. Congress, the president or government agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency, or even the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (in a different situation), have taken positions at odds with those who grow food. I also recognize that as many who might agree with me on this issue may also disagree. Either way, I’d be happy to consider your opinion on the topic.

When writing, please let me know your name, where you farm or work, what your comment is and whether or not I have permission to use your comment in a future Corn E-Digest newsletter. You can contact me (John Pocock) at: [email protected].

You're also welcome to write to me if you have concerns or questions about this newsletter or if you have ideas on topics you’d like to see me write about for future issues. I look forward to hearing from you.

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