Update on Harvesting Crops that Have Been Flooded

Many, particularly in the Southern Vermont, are either gearing up for corn harvest or have already begun.  If you have crops that have been flooded and you plan to harvest them for feed or let animals graze them, this post is for you.

In some parts of the country when corn has been flooded, the FDA has ruled that it cannot/could not be fed due to concerns about food safety.  Obviously, painting with such a broad brush is not ideal if it is possible or likely that some of the corn could be fed.  No doubt we all appreciate the Vermont Agency of Agriculture pushing for a situation where there is more flexibility for such decisions to be determined on a case-by-case basis.  The Vermont Agency of Agriculture submitted a ‘mitigation’ proposal to the FDA, which was accepted.  You should soon receive a letter from the VT Agency of Agriculture detailing the implications for corn that was flooded.  My current understanding is that:

  • Corn that was flooded should be segregated.  If flooded corn is mixed with unflooded corn, the whole batch will need to be treated as though it was all flooded.
  • Testing requirements may vary, depending on where you are located, what discharge events happened upstream, etc.
  • You will likely be required to have the flooded corn tested weekly, at least for some things.  It bears mentioning that one primary concern is ‘aflatoxin’ which can develop in these types of situations.  Although it is said to be unlikely to be a problem this far north, it is highly carcinogenic and does pass over into the milk.  Heavy metals and other contaminants are of concern in some locations.
  • If you don’t plan to harvest any crops that have been flooded, the mitigation plan does not apply to you.
  • More specific details will be forthcoming

Regarding pastures that have been flooded:  some of them look great, but can cause expensive losses.  I spoke with a farmer today who related a scary anecdote from the 1996 flood: three weeks after the flood, he let the cows out into the pasture and 6 or 7 (of about 70) aborted.  There are probably many possible reasons for this, but clostridium and listeria come to mind.  Given the risks, it seems wise to wait until next year to graze or harvest pasture/hayland that has been flooded.

If you do plan to put your animals out on pasture, be sure to talk with your veterinarian about the risks, necessary vaccinations, and other precautions to minimize your risk.  Don’t graze too low to the ground, make sure they have other feed available free-choice, etc.

WHAT IF I DID NOT HAVE INSURANCE?

Even if you don’t have crop insurance, REPORT ALL FLOOD DAMAGE TO THE Farm Service Agency.  Document the damage before harvesting what you plan to harvest, but let them know.  Contact me or someone else from UVM Extension, your local Conservation District, NRCS office, or the FSA if you need help documenting the damage.

Please let me know if you are lacking any information about dealing with flood-damaged crops or other damage related to Hurricane Irene.

An excellent compilation of disaster relief resources can be found at the UVM Extension Website.

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About Daniel Hudson

Daniel is an agronomist for University of Vermont Extension in the areas of agriculture and nutrient management.
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