Army Corps of Engineers criticized for timing of letters to flood-besieged farmers

Jul 5, 2011

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is catching flak for sending out letters to farmers along the flooded Missouri River.

The letters in question are an attempt to gauge farmers' interest in selling their lands to the federal government for wildlife habitat restoration.  Farmers in Missouri and Iowa have been receiving the letters.

Missouri U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill (D) says she’s asked the Corps to stop sending the letters until after the flooding subsides.

“It almost looks like they’re preying upon folks who are down and out," McCaskill said.  "I just think that it looks opportunistic and crass, and I think it’s bad manners...I think they should hold off on any attempts to buy any land until these folks have a chance to get out from underneath the water and catch their breath.”

The Missouri Farm Bureau has also called on the Army Corps of Engineers to cease and desist.  President Blake Hurst says he believes the timing of the letters was a big mistake.

“I would have hoped that there was somebody there that would have looked at those letters and said, ‘Hey, wait a minute, perhaps (at a) time when literally thousands of farmers are seeing their summer’s work washed away, this might not be a good time to send those letters.’ But obviously nobody there who saw that letter had that thought," Hurst said.

The St. Joseph News-Press quotes an Army Corps of Engineers spokesman as saying that the timing of the letters was both a coincidence and a mistake.  The Corps has not yet responded to our requests for comments.