Iowa Public Television


Planting Behind in the Midwest

posted on June 13, 2008

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The National Weather Service estimates flood-related damage will run into the hundreds of millions of dollars, officials in some regions fear the tally could be worse than the floods of '93.

The numbers prompted the Agriculture Department to lower its 2008 corn production estimate to 11.7 billion bushels, or about 10 percent less than last year.

Nearby corn futures prices closed at more than 7.30 per bushel on Friday and prices are up nearly 20 percent since the first part of June.

Of course, high prices are of little consolation to those who've lost their crops, or were unable to plant due to one of the wettest springs on record in the Midwest.

And while Will Rogers once joked that "everyone complains about the weather but no one does anything about it..." the concept of doing something about their CROPS is no joke for frustrated farmers.

Heavy rains and flooding in key Midwestern states are drowning hopes of planting and reducing 2008 crop production.

Jim Routh, Mt. Ayr, Iowa - "I've only been in the field to plant six days this year. It's just been rain, rain, rain and when it dries up, we get in one day. We had a stretch of five days and got 50 percent of the crop."

With the optimum time to plant corn long gone and the window for planting soybeans dwindling, farmers are left wondering what to do. Market to Market traveled to Creston, Iowa, this week, where ARMtech Insurance Services presented "preventive planting" options to a packed room of frustrated growers.

Tom Gowdy, ARMtech Insurance Services - "Preventive Planting is a part of crop insurance. It's the part of the federal policy that pays a farmer if in a year like this, they can't get it planted. Then, we're going to make them a payment based on 60 percent of what the normal coverage would be for their crop and in their county."

For example, if the insured producer has crop insurance resulting in $75,000 in total coverage, that figure would be multiplied by 60 percent to get the preventive planting payment.

Tom Gowdy, ARMtech Insurance Services - "The policy really encompasses both a guarantee on the end if we're short bushels if you get it planted. But, it also takes care of those farmers that have gone out and attempted to put a crop in the ground."

Experts say June 15 to 20 is about the latest farmers can realistically plant corn in Iowa. So many growers have switched to soybeans. And, some farmers could even be planting beans in July.

Tom Gowdy, ARMtech Insurance Services - "There's also economic decisions to be made, a lot of farmers have forward contracted their corn. They need the grain."

Nationally, more than 4 million acres of corn were left to be planted as of June 1. According to USDA, about 77 percent of the soybean crop has been planted compared to 92 percent in 2007.

Larry Weis, Afton, Iowa - "In '93, we had a lot of rain, but it cleared up to where we could get in the field. I don't think it's ever been quite this bad."

Despite record flooding in 1993, most farmers who incurred losses were able to collect insurance. This year, many growers weren't even able to plant, so crop insurance is moot. Moreover, the losses are more acute this year because input costs have risen dramatically.

Bob Kerrigan, Afton, Iowa - "I have some input costs on the ground, but if I can just cover it now, raise half a crop. There's no reason not to do it that way. So, that's what we're going to do."

Larry Weis, Afton, Iowa - "Percentage-wise, it's going to capture some of our fertilizer stuff we had on. Primarily, the ground we go preventive planting on, we won't make any money on it. If we can just avoid losing money is the thing. That's what we're looking at."

Since there are a lot of variables with preventive planting, farmers are advised to contact their crop insurance providers for more information.

Tags: agriculture farmers farms floods HEAT Iowa Iowa-storms-08 news water weather