The letter was routine but not well-timed.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers mailed letters to farmers along the Missouri River this spring, asking them to consider selling land to the corps that would be used to restore fish and wildlife habitat.
Some letters went out June 6, about two weeks after the corps began releasing huge amounts of water from upstream dams, which has caused widespread flooding along the Missouri.
With floodwaters covering many acres of farmland, the corps’ letter was ill-timed and insensitive, said Bruce Biermann, owner of a Mound City, Mo., farm and an official of the Missouri Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts.
“They just opened up another can of worms,” Biermann said.
U.S. Rep Sam Graves, R-Mo., called the letter a “slap in the face” of people who are dealing with flooded property.
The June 6 letters went to landowners only in the state of Missouri, said Monique Farmer, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Omaha.
But the issue was raised by a farmer during a public meeting in Sidney, Iowa, last week that was attended by Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey and U.S. Rep Tom Latham.
Farmer said Tuesday that the corps is authorized by Congress to buy land in the Missouri River valley to rebuild wildlife habitat. Such letters to landowners are nothing new.
“We’ve been doing that for 18 years,” Farmer said.
And while describing the timing as coincidental, corps officials acknowledge it was a mistake to send the letters when they did.
“Unfortunately, the letters went out — not intentionally — during a time when flooding is taking place, because this is something we do every year,” Farmer said.
Col. Tony Hoffman, commander of the corps’ Kansas City District, took responsibility for the letter.
“It is a staff misfunction on our part that the letter went out in an untimely fashion,” Hoffman told the St. Joseph (Mo.) News-Press. “It’s not good that those letters went out when they did.”
This report includes material from the Associated Press.
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