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Midwestern farmers are not about to let historic flooding put them under

At least 1 million acres of farmland flooded in nine different states. The damages are currently estimated to top $3 billion.

by Pieter Colpaert, Jika Gonzalez, and Agnes Walton
Apr 5 2019, 4:15pm

BRISTOW, Nebraska — Paul Allen, a 75-year-old cattle rancher in Bristow, Nebraska, took a terrible hit when a dam collapsed about 4 miles from his ranch along the Niobrara River in the early hours of March 14.

The flooding killed at least 60 cows and bulls — nearly a third of his herd — damaged equipment, took out miles of fence, and covered his land in mud and giant chunks of ice. Allen said the ice will have to melt before he can fully assess the damage, but the total cost will likely exceed $150,000. None of it is covered by insurance, though he'll get some relief from federal and state emergency programs.

Nebraska was among the worst-hit states when a combination of record rain and a devastating storm known as a “bomb cyclone” caused widespread flooding in the Midwest earlier this month. At least 1 million acres of farmland flooded in nine different states. The damages are currently estimated to top $3 billion.

The devastation is a hard pill to swallow for farmers across the Midwest. Many of them are already struggling to break even, due to a crushing combination of tariffs, low commodity prices, and natural disasters like this one. And that's just the beginning of a particularly bad flood season, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's predictions. At least 25 states are at-risk.

Paul Allen, 75, looks at the damage caused to his cattle ranch by floods after  a dam collapsed about 4 miles away on the Niobrara River in the early hours of March 14. (Jika Gonzales/VICE News.)
Paul Allen, 75, looks at the damage caused to his cattle ranch by floods after a dam collapsed about 4 miles away on the Niobrara River in the early hours of March 14. (Jika Gonzalez/VICE News)

But Allen loves life on his ranch and isn't about to give up, no matter what it takes. “I know we'll get through it,” he told VICE News. “It's just something you’ve got to do. And on top of everything else, the people that have been helping and calling us — crazy! There's just all kinds of help out there.”

This segment originally aired March 29, 2019, on VICE News Tonight on HBO.