Flood-plagued Farmers Need to Move Quickly but Carefully

Flood-plagued Farmers Need to Move Quickly but Carefully

June 21, 2010

Farmers contending with flooded fields from this month's storms need to assess their options quickly and carefully, say University of Nebraska-Lincoln experts.

While everyone's situation is different, the first step is simple: Contact your crop insurance agent as soon as possible, said UNL Extension Educator Keith Glewen.

"Make sure you're communicating clearly and effectively with them," he said on UNL Extension's "Market Journal" program.

Paul Burgener, a UNL Extension agricultural economics research analyst at UNL's Research and Extension Center in Scottsbluff, agreed.

"This is one of those critical times when it's really good to know your crop insurance agent and adjustor and get them involved in your decision making before you do anything," Burgener said.

It's also important to contact the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Farm Services Agency, Glewen added. Reports of flood damage to FSA play a role in designations of agricultural disaster areas which are necessary to open up access to federal assistance programs.

Producers need to clearly understand their options from FSA and under their crop insurance contracts before they take any action in their fields, Glewen said.

Those options will vary depending on the severity of flooding. Some cornfields had been underwater for four to six days by the end of last week. That flooding, combined with recent high temperatures, likely means the corn won't survive.

Corn that was underwater for only 24 hours or so, though, may survive. Usually it takes about 48 hours of flooding for oxygen in the soil to be depleted. Considerable nitrogen loss — perhaps 50 to 75 percent -- also is likely, Glewen said.

Even in fields where the flooding wasn't as extensive, "the corn really never does recover the vigor and vitality it had before the flood," Glewen said. "Definitely, we'll see yield loss."

Farmers who decide, after consulting their crop insurance agent, to replant corn are likely to get at best only about 50 percent of the yield they might have gotten. They need to consider the cost of replanting, the seed availability and the chances of getting the crop to maturity before the first killing frost.

Also, corn replanted at this late date would be uninsurable, Burgener said. The late-planting cutoff date was June 15.

Planting a different crop might be possible, but options could be limited if farmers treated their corn with a pre-emergent herbicide, Glewen said. Replacing that corn with soybeans could be problematic, though some farmers have successfully done that in the past. Grain sorghum is a possibility, though there are fewer marketing options in eastern Nebraska than in other parts of the state.

As for soybeans, the window of opportunity is a bit wider, Glewen said. It's possible to plant soybeans until late June or early July and still get decent yields. If replanting soybeans, producers should use a seed inoculant and a fungicide treatment.

The crop insurance deadline for soybeans was June 10, with a 25-day late planting period, Burgener said. So soybeans could be covered by insurance if planted up to July 5, though with a 1 percent per day reduction in coverage. For dry beans, the crop insurance deadline is June 20; for sunflowers June 15 in northern counties and June 20 in southern counties; and for grain sorghum June 5 (northern counties) or June 15 (southern counties).

Farmers who have crop insurance also might be eligible for assistance from the new Supplemental Revenue Assistance Program (SURE), said Brad Lubben, UNL Extension public policy specialist. That program, part of the new federal farm bill, can provide additional coverage for crop losses, but only for producers who bought private crop insurance.

Comments by Burgener, Glewen and Lubben can be seen on Market Journal, archived at marketjournal.unl.edu. More information on crop insurance and other options is available from UNL Extension's CropWatch, at cropwatch.unl.edu.

Daniel Moser
IANR Communications Specialist

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