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Damage to Montana, Wyoming agriculture amid flooding may impact Utah food supply

Posted at 9:16 PM, Jun 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-15 23:16:58-04

SALT LAKE CITY — Record-breaking floodwaters continue to sweep through Yellowstone National Park and the riverbeds, roads, and cabins nearby.

It’ll take a while for the tourism industry to bounce back, and farmers say it could take years for the soil and land to return back to normal.

“Mother Nature…she’s still in charge,” said Brett Moline with the Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation. “She’s very powerful and unforgiving.”

Walter Schweitzer with the Montana Farmers Union said farmers are bracing for more flooding as the snowpack continues to melt.

Read - Utahns among those evacuated from Yellowstone National Park amid historic flooding

“The Yellowstone area still has a lot of snow to come out,” said Schweitzer. “These floods aren’t going to go away anytime soon.”

He said Montana’s biggest agricultural products are livestock and wheat, with 95% of the wheat harvest shipped across the country and overseas.

“A lot of agriculture production foes follow the river valleys, and so some of our better soil will be in those river valleys,” said Schweitzer. “And now in the Yellowstone, it’s all underwater.”

Moline said that Park County, Wyoming – the county right next to Yellowstone – is one of the most intensely irrigated areas in the state.

“Barley, alfalfa, a little bit of corn, sugarbeets, dry beans,” Moline listed. “Essentially any crop that’s grown in Wyoming is going to be grown up in the Park County area.”

The Wyoming Department of Agriculture told FOX 13 News that cattle and sheep make up a majority of livestock in that area.

Moline said he hasn’t heard of any reported flooding to farmland there and hopes dams and reservoirs can mitigate future risk.

“I think most of that water is flowing west, so the impact for the private lands of Wyoming will be much less than what’s happening up in Montana,” he said.

The Wyoming Department of Agriculture said it’s too early to know the full extent to what crops were damaged and how this could affect prices down the line.

Schweitzer predicts economic recovery will take a long time.

“Montana – agriculture is our number one industry, but tourism is right there as well,” said Schweizter. “We’re going to depend on help from Congress to be able to survive both of these hits.”

The Montana Farmers Union has agriculture ambassadors reaching out to farmers in the affected areas to learn about the damages and how they can help.