July 22, 2010

Thirty Inches of Rain Taking Toll on Area Farmers

With damage to county roads and bridges estimated at $1 million, inclement weather this spring and summer are taking a heavy toll on Scotland County. Unfortunately that may be only a drop in the bucket compared to financial losses expected for agriculture producers due to good ole Mother Nature.

Scotland County Farm Service Agency Director Gary Kittle stated that excessive rainfall and excessive moisture beginning in April through the present date have caused a mixture of problems for the county.

“These problems range from severe erosion, flooding, and damaged conservation practices to crop damage, delayed and preventive planting and loss of chemicals and fertilizer just to name a few,” he said.

Andrea King of the National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) indicated that normal rainfall for Scotland County from April 1 through June 30 is 11.46 inches. Actual rainfall during that period in 2010 was 30.30 inches, or approximately 264% above normal.

“Normal rainfall for the month of June is 3.55 inches,” Kittle said. “By the official Scotland County FSA rain gauge, we have received 13.82 inches of rainfall in the month.”

He also pointed out that those totals have varied widely across the county. The July 7th storm that caused severe flooding in southern and eastern parts of the county only produced ľ inch of rain at the FSA office in Memphis, but had reports of five to eight inches or more of rain in the Arbela, Rutledge and Gorin areas.

The Scotland County Emergency Board met July 14 at the Scotland County USDA Service Center to discuss the farm-related storm issues of 2010.

King highlighted that the problems began back in May, when five to six inches of rain fell during the second week of the month, causing erosion and damage to conservation practices not to mention crop flooding and destruction of plantings. One to two inches of rain fell each of the next two weeks of May further delaying farming.

“From April 1 through June 30, rains came so often and so frequently, that a vast amount of farm work or field work could not be accomplished,” King said.

According to the report given to the emergency board, it rained 15 of 31 days in May and in June it rained 18 of 30 days.

“In June it rained every day, or every other day except the last three days of the month,” said Kittle.

The emergency board discussed crop conditions for the 2010 crop year based on findings by the county committee, soil and water conservation district members and input from Scotland County producers.

Prevented planting heads the list of damage, as the number of acres unable to be planted this year due to the weather as estimates indicated as many as 6,500 acres of corn went unplanted.

Soybean planting was delayed by the weather, and poor stands have resulted due to flooding, ponding and drowned out spots. Another 7,000 acres was estimated as unplanted due to the excessive moisture.

Yield is expected to be low due to exposed and shallow root systems for corn, with more than half of both corn and soybean crops not expected to survive an early frost on October 15.

“The acres prevented from being planted and the acres of planted crops damaged by excessive moisture will place a severe financial burden on the farmers and the economy of Scotland County,” said King.

She added that continued poor weather in June has further stressed what crops that made it into the ground while adding to the damage already being witnessed in the form of erosion, gullies and fill dirt in terraces, not to mention those conservation practices that have been topped or washed out.

The emergency board placed preliminary crop losses at 35% yield reduction for corn and 15 to 20 bushels per acre in declined yield for soybeans, with a combined 13,500 acres that were not planted due to the rain.

The official damage assessment report was submitted to the governor’s office.

On June 22 Governor Jay Nixon asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency to conduct damage assessment reports as soon as possible for all 114 Missouri counties and the city of St. Louis to determine the extent of damage to farms because of flooding, excessive rain and strong winds.

“Over the past few weeks, Missouri farmers have encountered numerous hardships because of severe weather and widespread flooding,” the governor said. “Conducting these damage assessments will help Missouri farmers as we begin to rebuild and recover from these damaging storms.”

The Governor’s request for damage assessments is the first step in the process of declaring counties as primary disaster areas. Primary disaster counties are those that lose at least 30 percent of the estimated yield of a single crop, or where individual farmers suffer production losses of more than 30 percent.

A disaster designation would allow eligible farmers to be considered for assistance from the USDA’s Farm Service Agency. Farmers who qualify would receive FSA emergency loans or assistance from the federal Supplemental Revenue Assistance Payments Program. Affected farmers would apply to FSA, which considers each application individually on its merits. Farmers in counties contiguous to primary disaster areas also could be eligible for assistance.

As the damage-assessment process moves forward, more information will be available about applying for assistance.

“Agriculture is vital to Missouri’s economy, and we will be standing with our farmers at every step in this process,” Governor Nixon said.

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