Goehring says action needed to repair flood-damaged land

BISMARCK – Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring is asking McHenry County farmers and ranchers to document their damaged acreage from last year's Mouse River flooding and to estimate the amount of forage that land would have produced.

“This information is needed to address the issues of lost forage, damage to some land and debris covering the landscape in multiple areas,” Goehring said. “If we know the extent of the damage and the lost production, we can make a better case for assistance.”

Goehring said farmers should contact Raquel Dugan-Dibble, the McHenry County extension agent, at (701) 537-5404 or R.Dugan-Dibble@ndsu.edu to obtain a form for reporting their losses. Forms should be submitted before June 1.

The commissioner, who traveled through the area and met with local farmers and ranchers in Towner Monday, said the damage to the land is widespread. 

“As bad as it looked during the flood, the aftermath is almost worse in some cases,” Goehring said. “The debris and the mold make the fields and pasture look like an alien landscape. It could take three to six years for the land to recover.”

Goehring said samples of the debris have been taken and are being analyzed for possible toxicity to livestock.

The North Dakota Department of Agriculture is participating with North Dakota State University researchers on demonstration projects to determine what types of practices and forages will help with a quicker recovery of the land.

Goehring said he has heard reports that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is restricting the flow of the Mouse River through the J. Clark Salyer National Wildlife Refuge, resulting in the backing up of water on land and slowing the drainage of fields upstream.

“I intend to meet with the state's congressional delegation regarding the management of the river and to determine if any federal help may be available to accelerate the recovery phase and to address lost forage,” he said. “Many farmers depend on that land for their cattle to graze or to produce hay for winter feed.”