PERCIVAL, Iowa – The Midwest is still struggling to recover from two devastating floods which brought historic destruction to the region.
Just a few months after the epic floods flowed through parts of Iowa, Nebraska, and Missouri, you can still smell the rotting corn and see the costly effects of historically high water levels at David Lueth's family farm in Percival, Iowa.
Lueth grows corn and soybeans, and the flooding wiped out any chance of planting crops in the 2019 growing season.
"The hardest thing for me is I had never gone without planting a crop, even in the 150 years of this farm, so this is all new," Lueth told CBN News.
Floods Lead to the Worst Destruction Ever Seen
Problems started in March when a powerful bomb cyclone struck the Midwest, leading to increases in snowmelt and rain which overpowered the levee systems along the Missouri River.
We had such a short time, the roads were thawing out but we couldn't get a lot of the equipment down the roads because of the ruts, the mud, getting stuck," Lueth said. "So it was a real mess. All we could really do was pretty much grab personal items and get out."
The powerful storm and subsequent floods led to some of the worst destruction ever seen here, with damage estimates in the billions.
Home Spared "By the Grace of God"
Lueth showed us a picture of his home, which he says was spared by the grace of God. "When I saw this picture I knew we were okay because the porch is okay and the floor is on the level of the porch," he said.
The rest of the farm did not fare as well, where the damage will easily be in the tens of thousands of dollars
His silos saw the most damage as strong currents collapsed bins filled with corn. Lueth said that corn represented his income for the season, and what he had planned to live on for the rest of the year.
While he was forced from his home, Lueth said he remained optimistic. He returned to the farm each day, often by kayak, and prepared to plant corn and soybeans.
"We came in early, thought we were maybe going to be able to get a few acres in because waters were receding after March 24th. They were going down, into April, they were going down," he recalled.
Farmer's Faith Sees Him Through the Uncertainty
Then in May, the second flood came through, sweeping away any chance of farming this year.
Through it all, his faith is seeing him through. "My faith is well-founded and I've just kind of given it all to God and just said hey, show me your direction. I truly believe I got those answers, and like He told me many years ago, everything is going to be alright," Lueth said.
He and his family needed that reassurance because the flooding has kept them out of their home for a total of 130 days this year.
"I guess the biggest fear is the financial aspect of it," he admitted. "But the farm will always be here, I may not be in business – that's to be determined."
He says ironically, one blessing is not having any expense in the ground right now. Still, times are tough.
"We're living on a real tight budget right now," he said.
Trade War with China Means Uncertain Future
But he's not alone in his struggle. The best help, he says, has been from church groups coming into the area bringing food, physical labor, and emotional support.
While he focuses on recovering from this year's bad weather, another long-range concern is the ongoing trade war with China.
Brazil now has taken over 75% of the China market that once went to American farmers. "So, are we going to get those markets back?" he asked. "I'm not too sure."
While the US may win the trade war, Lueth worries how long it will take to win back the China market.
"What hurts me as a farmer is when our President says China doesn't matter. Well, on this farm China does matter," he said.
Despite the challenges, Lueth remains optimistic. "Floods, famine, we're all going to have them in our lives but if you believe in God, you can handle these things a lot, lot better," he said.
While there's still a lot of work to do, Lewth is hopeful that by Christmas they'll have the farm back in operation, in time for the 2020 season.