ADA (AP) -- The owners of Ada Feed & Seed here, like many who live in farm communities throughout northwest Minnesota, are on edge.
In recent weeks, massive flooding and high temperatures have destroyed much of the crops in the region, and farmers are buying less pesticide, weed spray and fertilizer from the company.
"Agriculture's been on the ropes for too long," said Tim Wagner, who, with his brother Grant, runs the company their grandfather started in 1930. "We've been through this too many times. We have no cushion. We'll lose our business."
The once-bustling grain elevator has become an emblem for the struggling agriculture industry in northwestern Minnesota. Many fear that years of flooding -- coupled with no provisions for disaster assistance in farm law -- could lead to the loss of jobs and businesses.
Agriculture is also becoming more concentrated, like other industries, with fewer farms and independent retailers. The number of farms in Minnesota shrunk from 204,500 in 1935 to fewer than 79,000 last year.
This season's crop losses are estimated at more than $267 million across 14 counties, according to the Department of Agriculture's Farm Service Agency. Flood losses in the area are estimated at more than $370 million, said John Monson, the agency's state executive director.
Those losses do not include the indirect impact to agribusinesses. In Roseau and Norman counties, for example, for each dollar of lost farm income, 70 cents is dropped from ag suppliers and related businesses, said William Lazarus, an agricultural economist at the University of Minnesota.
Except for cities such as Roseau, Warren and Thief River Falls, which have major manufacturers, agriculture provides up to half of the jobs in most communities. In some, such as Ada, it provides nearly all the jobs.
"It's going to be devastating to the ag economy up here," said Todd Oster, general manager for Salol Elevators, which operates five elevators with 17 full-time workers plus seasonal help. "We're already starting to look at what are we going to do. There's probably going to be some layoffs and cost-cutting over the next month or so." Salol is a small city nine miles east of Roseau.
Marty Kappes of West Central Ag Services, an Ada co-op grain elevator affiliated with Cenex Harvest States, said he'll be interested so see who still buys seed next spring. "When farmers lose money, everybody loses money in this part of the world, and they took it hard this year," he said.
Receding flood waters are also stealing much of the rich topsoil that supports such crops as wheat, canola, corn and grass seed.
Minnesota's congressional delegation is seeking emergency assistance in Washington, D.C., said Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn. The new six-year farm law, however, provides no emergency disaster payments for farmers.
Last year, when heavy spring rains kept many northwest Minnesota farmers from planting, President Bush refused to approve emergency assistance. He has said he will veto any new emergency measures for farmers. Peterson and Democratic Sens. Paul Wellstone and Mark Dayton wrote to Bush two weeks ago, urging him to change his mind.
For agribusinesses, there are no emergency grants for floods or droughts. They and farmers might qualify for low-interest loans, but those interviewed said they don't want more debt.
While some might lose money, others could ring up more sales, including hardware stores, construction companies and cleaning services.
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