One year later, MO farms hurting

Walking through some of Missouri's debris-strewn fields, it could be a day after tornadoes hit instead of a year.

BY SUSAN KIM | ASHLAND, Missouri | May 5, 2004



"Farmers don't like to talk about their problems with outsiders."

—Bryan Crousore


Walking through some of Missouri's debris-strewn fields, it could be a day after tornadoes hit instead of a year.

While many people got back into repaired or rebuilt homes during the months that have followed the devastating May 2003 tornadoes, farmers still have critical needs that have gone unaddressed.

"I would say the biggest unmet need is agricultural," said Bryan Crousore, administrator of the Missouri Interfaith Disaster Response Organization (MIDRO).

And one of the biggest of those needs is cleaning up debris still lying in the fields -- a hazard so serious it can grind farm operations to a halt.

"Fields are still full of debris, and full of fiberglass insulation," Crousore explained. "The cows eat the insulation, I guess their mouths can't tell the difference between that and hay. It cuts their stomachs to ribbons and they bleed to death."

Debris is still sitting in ponds, too - a deadly hidden hazard for thirsty livestock.

Another major post-tornado agricultural need is some 1,000 miles of fencing that still needs to be replaced. "And steel prices are going up by the day," said Crousore. "And fencing is absolutely critical," he added. "You can't farm without fences."

In addition, 30-35 barns need to be replaced.

Farmers don't have time to cope with debris and other lingering post-tornado damage because they have to be out in the fields in order to recoup at least some of their financial losses.

On the positive side, at least some farmers stand a chance for a good harvest this year.

"Soybean prices look better this summer than they have been," said Crousore. "And so farmers need to be out in the field right now to take advantage of that."

For some farmers, the financial losses from the tornadoes are only now beginning to show, he said. "First farmers start to sell machinery. Then they sell land here and there."

Next, Crousore said, come "bankruptcies, and then suicides increase and spousal abuse rates increase."

And many farmers won't ask for help until their financial situation is dire. "Farmers don't like to talk about their problems with outsiders," said Crousore.

In the coming months, farmers will need financial contributions and just a listening ear, he predicted. "The faith community needs to be there with practical resources and spiritual care.

"Look at it this way: how long could you be out of work? I mean, I couldn't be out of work for a year."


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• Interested volunteers should contact the: Missouri Interfaith Disaster Response Organization

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