Two key leaders in Missouri – Republican Gov. Mike Parson and Democratic Congressman Emanuel Cleaver II – don’t have a lot in common politically but on Tuesday appeared to see eye to eye on the need to change how the Missouri River is managed, particularly during high-water years like this one.
“The Corps (of Engineers) cannot continue to make river plans that are external to farmers who are impacted each year,” Cleaver said Tuesday after meeting in Blue Springs with an advisory group of farmers from his district, which runs from Kansas City east to Higginsville, Richmond and Marshall.
Parson sat in on that meeting. Afterward, he stressed again that he’s been working with the leaders in Iowa, Nebraska and Kansas to demand that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers give states a bigger say in how the river is managed. Specifically, levees need attention and more needs to be done to protect farmers from flooding.
“If we do nothing, five, six years from now we’re going to be here in this room having the same conversation,” he said.
But Congress calls the shots on all that. It tells the Corps of Engineers what to do, and it’s the body that for years has ordered the Corps to balance interests on the Missouri River that include flood control, navigation, recreation and wildlife management, particularly looking out for endangered species. States would like to make flood control a paramount priority.
Cleaver said the Missouri congressional delegation is on board with changes.
“It has to be done. I don’t think there’s any question,” he said.
Levasy has been hard hit by this year’s flooding on the Missouri. Cleaver confirmed that the idea of buying out land there is on the table.
“That is something that the Corps has been considering,” he said.
Parson stressed that water remains high, and many communities have been basically shut down for the year. Roads remain closed, and farmland remains under water. Will farmers find fields full of sand once the river recedes?
“We still don’t know what all is out there,” Parson said.
The discussion with the farmers also included tariffs on China, which have cut exports of soybeans and other products. Missouri remains a top producer of soybeans, but prices are down and farmers are feeling it. China has turned to sources such as Brazil.
Cleaver pointed out that U.S. trade negotiators are in China this week for another crack at ending the trade war.
“It’s to the benefit of Missouri that we get this resolved. … The Chinese buy a lot of beans from us,” he said.
Parson added, “We’re all concerned about that. … We’re all looking for a solution on that.”
Cleaver said Congress has work to do as well, specifically a new farm bill and new transportation bill.
“We are in desperate need of funding to deal with these repairs,” he said.
Jeff Fox is the editor of The Examiner. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 816-352-6758.