Joint Efforts Give Hope after Devastating Kentucky and Appalachian Floods

In late July 2022, multiple thunderstorms generated heavy rain over a five-day period in eastern Kentucky and central Appalachia. At times, these storms brought rainfall rates in excess of 4 inches per hour, causing severe flash flooding. The intense rainfall led to significant rises in water levels on many eastern Kentucky rivers. The resulting river flooding created a secondary disaster that impacted an even greater number of communities—even those not severely impacted by the initial rainfall. Roads and bridges washed out, communities lost power and homes were ripped from their foundations. In total, 39 people lost their lives.

While the impact to the state’s agriculture industry was not severe, the region’s rural communities were devastated. In response, the Kentucky Farm Bureau and the Kentucky Department of Agriculture began seeking contributions for the Kentucky Relief Fund to provide support to families and communities in the affected areas. CoBank and Farm Credit Mid-America responded with a joint contribution of $50,000 to aid recovery efforts.

“Our hearts go out to everyone who was impacted by this devastating weather event,” said Mark Barker, senior vice president of Agricultural Lending in Kentucky for Farm Credit Mid-America. “The impact to our neighbors was immense, and we wanted to do our part to contribute to relief efforts in the immediate aftermath and in the future.”

“CoBank and Farm Credit Mid-America are cooperative organizations, so when disasters strike, we naturally want to collaborate with others to aid impacted communities,” said Wes Millard, regional vice president, CoBank. “CoBank has partnered with Farm Credit Mid-America many times to support disaster relief projects as well as other charitable causes aimed at improving quality of life in the region. We’re proud of the work we do together to help ease suffering and to aid communities as they work to recover and rebuild following a disaster.”

Their commitment to agriculture made it natural for CoBank and Farm Credit Mid-America to join the efforts of the Kentucky Department of Agriculture and the Kentucky Farm Bureau. In turn, the KFB for Kentucky Relief Fund distributed donated funds to partners including the Christian Appalachian Project, Mountain Cattlemen’s Association, and God’s Pantry. One hundred percent of the money raised by the fund were passed along to organizations providing relief services in affected areas and each recipient organization has been integral in helping communities and residents to rebuild. In addition to its contribution with Farm Credit Mid-America, CoBank gave an additional $10,000 to the Kentucky Rural Electric Disaster Fund. The statewide association for rural electric cooperatives created the fund to assist co-op employees and their families impacted by disaster. Following the 2022 flooding, the fund provided immediate assistance to co-op employees in need and also helped with collection and distribution of cleaning supplies, clothing, food and other essentials to help residents of flood-ravaged communities.

“Rural electric cooperatives are deeply invested in the communities they serve,” said Bill LaDuca, CoBank’s senior vice president, Electric Distribution Banking Group. “Their employees are members of these communities too, and the Kentucky Rural Electric Disaster Fund helps to ensure the immediate needs of these vital service providers are met, which allows them to get back to doing what they do best—keeping the lights on in rural America.”

This story was originally published in the CoBank 2022 Sustainability Report.