She came, she saw, and she didn't know what to say to make the farmers and landowners feel better. What can you say staring at a gaping 5-feet deep hole, 40-feet across and three-tenths of a mile long in the middle of the field. Water cascaded over the edge where it was still flowing in like a waterfall in a state park.
"It looks like the Grand Canyon," Skillman says. "Our hearts go out to people dealing with these situations."
This canyon was a cornfield before last weekend's flood. It empties into a gravel pit at the rear of the field.
She assured the farmers that state government was doing all it could to assist. The first step is assessing damage and applying for disaster aid. Skillman told reporters gathered in the field Thursday afternoon that Indiana was charging ahead on that front, at a pace well ahead of neighboring Illinois.
While Skillman toured the 'canyon in the cornfield,' then headed to the Merrill Kelsay and sons farm, Whiteland, to view more damage and discuss ag's current stressed situation, Governor Daniels was on a southern swing, ending up in Elnora, site of staggering damage as well. He canceled a trip to Japan to stay home and assist in assessing damage and deciding how best to proceed. Skillman noted that others were already in Japan, and that they proceeded with the market-searching tours without the Governor.
The field Skillman visited near Edinburgh is farmed by Jim and Ryan Facemire, and owned by Shelby Gravel Company. The land is underlain with gravel at three to four feet, but is a loam on top, not sand. The owners and farmers are now faced with figuring out what to do with the giant canyon. It developed from water coming down across other land in the watershed, and concentrating on the field before running into the nearby gravel pit.
Indiana Lt. Governor Becky Skillman discusses flood damage with Jim Facemire, Edinburgh, Ind., and his son, Ryan, far right. Note the cascading waterfall in the background.
Soil conservation experts visiting the site didn't have an immediate answer for solutions. It's not the average soil erosion problem you encounter everyday. In fact, from climatology data released yesterday, based on rainfall totals at Edinburgh last week, it's the kind of event that should only happen once in 1,000 years!
Corn Illustrated corn population plots sponsored by Farm Progress Companies are located in the canyon field, but fortunately the canyon developed on the opposite side. One finger of eroding soil came close to the plots, but did not touch it. Some of the plot was affected by standing water, but overall damage should be minimal. The plot will be salvaged. Anhydrous ammonia was sidedressed last week, but Purdue University agronomists believe losses should be minimal since it was in the ammonium form. Right now, corn is on the yellow side since soils are saturated. According to Facemire's rain collector a mile away, he also took on near the total reported officially for Edinburgh.