A corn field is submerged in flood water near Oakville, Iowa, on June 16, 2008.
A corn field is submerged in flood water near Oakville, Iowa, on June 16, 2008. - 
Listen To The Story


Renita Jablonski: The floods in the Midwest have washed out about four million acres of farmland. That's expected to hurt the corn crop. Corn prices are now hovering near record highs. One Iowa Senator is pushing to reclaim environmentally-sensitive land for farming. Marketplace's Jeff Tyler explains.

Jeff Tyler: The Conservation Reserve Program pays farmers to sets aside environmentally-vulnerable land, which is preserved as wildlife habitat.

Richard Wiles: It's had a significant economic benefit in the states like Iowa, where it is widely enjoyed by farmers because the program provides significant economic incentives to farms to enroll.

That's Richard Wiles, executive director of The Environmental Working Group. Iowa Senator Charles Grassley wants farmers to plant protected land to offset the corn lost in the flood.

Again, Richard Wiles:

Wiles: The environmental impacts of this would be fairly severe, and the benefits, in terms of increased corn production, would be almost negligible.

He says lawmakers need to rethink how we use what we already have. A quarter of the U.S. crop goes to ethanol. Wiles suggests the federal ethanol mandate be suspended, freeing up more corn to be sold as food or feed for livestock.

I'm Jeff Tyler for Marketplace.

Follow Jeff Tyler at @JeffMarketplace