Historic Midwest Flooding Has Devastating Consequences for Farmers
The record flooding in the Midwest that has now been blamed for four deaths could also have lasting consequences for the region's many farmers.
Flooding has swamped fields and stockpiles and drowned or harmed livestock in Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota and other states. In Nebraska alone, the loss of crops and livestock is estimated to total nearly $1 billion, Reuters reported Tuesday.
"The economy in agriculture is not very good right now. It will end some of these folks farming, family legacies, family farms," Iowa farmer Farmer Jeff Jorgenson told The Associated Press. "There will be farmers that will be dealing with so much of a negative they won't be able to tolerate it."
One of those farmers might be Anthony Ruzicka of Verdigre, Nebraska. His family has been farming the same plot for five generations, since the 1800s. But the floods have destroyed their farmhouse, littered their alfalfa and corn fields with chunks of ice and killed at least 15 of their cattle.
"There's not many farms left like this, and it's probably over for us too, now," Ruzicka The New York Times. "Financially, how do you recover from something like this?"
Not only crops were lost. The floods have damaged roads, bridges and railways farmers rely on to move their products to processing plants and shipping centers, Reuters reported. Such a major blow to U.S. farmers is likely to have national consequences.
"This will impact the food on your table," Chair of Nebraska's Democratic Party Jane Fleming Kleeb tweeted, as The New Food Economy reported.
Nebraska families facing historic losses, this will impact food on your table -Over $1billion in 🌽 🐄🐖🐔losses, will… https://t.co/E9tLX2923h— Jane Fleming Kleeb (@Jane Fleming Kleeb)1552997987.0
The floods come at a bad time for farmers for a variety of reasons. Seasonally, the floods have come just as farmers usually start their spring planting and need dry weather in order to get seeds in the ground.
At the same time, farmers in the region are generally suffering. The number of farms that filed for bankruptcy last year rose by 19 percent, the highest level in more than ten years. Further, incomes from farming have fallen by more than 50 percent because of a global glut of grain, Reuters reported. To make matters worse, a trade war with China has meant the country has stopped importing U.S. soybeans. Many farmers had stored last years' crops of grain and soy in hopes of better prices, and now some of those stores have been destroyed.
"I've never seen anything like this in my life," Winslow, Nebraska farmer Tom Geisler, who lost two storage bins full of corn, told Reuters. "We had been depending on the income from our livestock, but now all of our feed is gone, so that is going to be even more difficult. We haven't been making any money from our grain farming because of trade issues and low prices."
Human lives weren't the only ones impacted by the floods. U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue told reporters that the governors of Nebraska and Iowa had told him that up to one million calves may have been killed, Reuters reported in another article. Hog farms in Iowa were also flooded, according to The Associated Press.
Pets have also been caught up in the flooding. Rescue Lieutenant Jami Mitchell of Waterloo Fire/Rescue told Reuters that the number of animals rescued from homes in Waterloo, Nebraska included 87 dogs, eight cats, one rabbit, two birds, two hamsters and 26 horses.
But even animals who survived may have health problems because of the ordeal.
"Standing in the cold water and being cold certainly isn't good for the health of the animal," Nebraska Cattlemen spokeswoman Talia Goes told Reuters.
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Where Does the Deficiency Begin?<p>Nobody knows exactly how much vitamin D a person actually needs. The question of when a deficiency starts is correspondingly controversial. However, vitamin D is becoming increasingly popular.Not only is the pseudo-scientific literature on the "sun vitamin" experiencing an upswing, but the number of published studies has also increased enormously in recent years. For example, in 2019 <a href="https://academic.oup.com/edrv/article/40/4/1109/5126915" target="_blank">a study found that</a> Vitamin D is responsible for keeping the skeleton functional and is associated with cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes and various types of cancer. <br></p>
An All-Rounder<p>Vitamin D levels in the body rise and fall according to sun exposure. If sufficient UV rays reach the skin, the body is able to produce the vitamin itself. However, the human body only derives an estimated 10 to 20 percent of its daily requirement from food.</p><p>The vitamin D that we synthesize from sunlight or food is not biologically active at first. Before the kidneys can produce the biologically active form of the vitamin, known as calcitriol, and release it into the blood, some metabolic processes must take place beforehand.</p><p>In addition, many organs have receptors to which the precursor of calcitriol binds. Further, this substance is also present in blood.</p><p>From this precursor, the organs then produce calcitriol themselves, which the body then uses for countless other processes in the body. This form of vitamin D thus regulates insulin secretion, inhibits tumor growth, and promotes the formation of red blood cells as well as the survival and activity of macrophages, which are important for the <a href="https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/5/7/2502/htm" target="_blank">immune system.</a></p>
Low Vitamin D, Severe COVID-19 Disease?<p>A research study carried out <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352364620300067?via%3Dihub" target="_blank">at the University of Hohenheim</a> has now established a link between vitamin D deficiency, certain previous diseases, and severe cases of COVID-19.</p><p>According to the study, "there is a lot of evidence that several non-communicable diseases (high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, metabolic syndrome) are associated with low vitamin D plasma levels. These comorbidities, together with the often accompanying vitamin D deficiency, increase the risk of severe COVID-19 events."</p><p>"This statement is completely correct," said Martin Fassnacht, head of endocrinology at the University Hospital of Würzburg. However, he qualifies that it is a pure association, "i.e. a mere observation that these events occur together.</p><p>Dr. Fassnacht is very critical of the hype surrounding vitamin D, but not because he denies the vitamin serves important functions. However, studies on humans have not been able to show that vitamin D has the healing powers many often propagate.</p><p>Fassnacht says, "If you take a closer look, the hopes that the administration of vitamin D has a healing effect have not been confirmed so far."</p>
Association Versus Intervention Studies<p>Many studies on the vitamin are association or observational studies. "By definition, these studies cannot prove the causal relationship, but only point to mere correlations," said Fassnacht. The physician tries to illustrate this with an example:</p><p>"Imagine two groups of 80-year-olds. One group is spry, active and does sports. If you compare them with another group living in nursing homes, the difference in vitamin D levels will be dramatic. Life expectancy would also be extremely different."</p><p>But to try to explain the difference in fitness by vitamin D status alone is far too simplistic. "Vitamin D levels are a good measure of how sick someone is. But not more," says Fassnacht. </p><p>According to Fassnacht, none of the intervention studies carried out to date -- that specifically examined the effect of vitamin D on various diseases -- has been able to confirm the previous association and laboratory studies or the presumed positive effect of vitamin D.</p>
Further Research Is Needed<p>"If a coronavirus infection is suspected, it is therefore absolutely necessary to check the vitamin D status and quickly correct any possible deficit," said the recommendation of the paper published by the University of Hohenheim.</p><p>"Studies are underway to see whether vitamin D helps in COVID-19 infection, but I personally do not believe that this is really the case," says endocrinologist Fassnacht. Nevertheless, he says it is of course useful to carry out these studies.<br></p><p>"I don't want to rule out that there are actually subgroups of people who benefit from an additional vitamin D dose," he says. After all, this has been proven to be the case with a severe deficit.</p><p>In view of the study situation, Fassnacht does not think much of preventive, nationwide vitamin D substitutes. "My belief that the vitamin helps somewhere is very low. But, of course, I can be wrong."</p>
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