Iowa Public Television

 

Dry winter increases worries of drought year

posted on March 17, 2000


CERTAINLY IT WILL COST FARMERS MORE THIS YEAR TO PUT IN A CROP. AND AS IF THAT WERE NOT ENOUGH, MANY MAY ALSO CONFRONT SERIOUS FINANCIAL AND METEOROLOGICAL CHALLENGES.

DROUGHT CONDITIONS IN U-S FARM STATES ARE CONTINUING TO CAUSE CONCERN. THE RECENT LONG-TERM FORECAST FROM THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE PREDICTS A DRY SPRING WITH CONTINUING LACK OF MOISTURE THROUGHOUT THE SUMMER MONTHS. THE CORN BELT, EASTERN STATES STILL SUFFERING FROM LAST YEAR'S RECORD LOW RAINFALL AND THE STATES ACROSS THE SOUTHERN TIER OF THE U-S ARE ALL PREDICTED TO SUFFER A DROUGHT THIS YEAR. IRONICALLY, FOLLOWING THE GOVERNMENT FORECAST, TEXAS RECEIVED MUCH NEEDED STATE-WIDE MULTI-INCH RAINS WITH PREDICTIONS OF MORE TO FOLLOW.

SOME FEEL DROUGHT WORRIES IN THE MIDWEST MAY BE PREMATURE, CITING HISTORICAL TRENDS THAT SHOW DRY WINTERS ARE NOT ACCURATE INDICATORS OF THE WEATHER TO FOLLOW. ALSO, THE LAST TWO TIMES SIMILARLY DRY CONDITIONS STARTED THE YEAR, TIMELY RAINS PRODUCED ABOVE AVERAGE CROPS IN THE CORN BELT.

HOWEVER, THE DROUGHT IS REAL IN MANY STATES. MONTANA WINTER WHEAT IS SUFFERING FROM LACK OF SNOWFALL, AND STREAM FLOW IN THE EASTERN U-S IS AT RECORD LOW LEVELS.

CROP INSURANCE, WHICH PROTECTS FARMERS IN TIMES OF DROUGHT, IS RECEIVING ATTENTION IN WASHINGTON. BILLS PENDING IN BOTH HOUSES WOULD MAKE INSURANCE CHEAPER FOR FARMERS BY INCREASING SUBSIDIES. LESS EXPENSIVE INSURANCE WORRIES LEGISLATORS FROM FARM STATES WITH LOW PARTICIPATION IN THE PROGRAM.

LUGAR QUOTE: "It just encourages bad production habits."

THOSE WHO OPPOSE CROP INSURANCE SUBSIDY INCREASES CLAIM FARMERS ARE MORE LIKELY TO VARY FROM NORMAL PLANTING PATTERNS BY SEEDING EXTRA ACRES OR GROWING RISKIER CROPS. SUBSIDY INCREASE SUPPORTERS SAY CROP INSURANCE GIVES FARMERS A FIRMER GRIP ON RISK MANAGEMENT.

UNDER CURRENT LAW A FARMER WHO SELLS LAND OR EQUIPMENT HAS TO PAY IN-FULL, AND UP-FRONT, ANY TAXES THAT ARE DUE ON THE PROCEEDS BEFORE SETTLING WITH OTHER CREDITORS. THE RESULT IS THE TAXES OFTEN FORCE FARMERS TO LIQUIDATE WHEN THEY MIGHT OTHERWISE HAVE BEEN ABLE TO DOWNSIZE AND REMAIN IN BUSINESS.

A SENATE VERSION OF A MEASURE TO MAKE PERMANENT THE SO-CALLED FARMER'S BANKRUPTCY CODE, CHAPTER 12, WOULD ALSO EXEMPT FARMERS FROM SUCH TAXES. THE HOUSE VERSION WOULD MAKE THE PROVISIONS PERMANENT, BUT NOT OTHERWISE CHANGE THE CODE.

IN A LETTER TO HOUSE AND SENATE NEGOTIATORS WHO ARE TRYING TO RECONCILE THE DIFFERENT BILLS, JUSTICE DEPARTMENT OFFICIALS WROTE "IT WOULD BE UNDESIRABLE TO BEGIN CREATING EXCEPTIONS FOR SPECIAL INTEREST GROUPS."

Tags: agriculture drought news winter