Farm Horizons, February 2004

Crop insurance agents watch the weather, too

By Julie Yurek

Crop insurance agents keep a watchful eye on the sky, waiting and wondering what Mother Nature will bring next.

Last year it was a drought, the year before flooding rains. What 2004 holds in store has yet to be seen.

During Duane Jindra's 25 years in the crop insurance business, he has seen a wide range of weather events. The majority of Jindra's clients are located in McLeod, Meeker, and Renville counties. He also has some in Wright and Carver counties, he said. Jindra's office is located in Hutchinson.

He remembers a month in 2003 that included flash flooding and a tornado.

An area west of Hutchinson received 11 inches of rain in less than two hours at the end of June, he said.

Then there was the tornado that hit Buffalo Lake that same month.

Crops were damaged by hail, flooding, and the actual tornado, he said.

"The damage in the rural area was just as bad as the city's," he said.

Three types of damaging weather are the most common: hailstorms, excessive moisture, and drought, he said. Frost is also a concern, although it's not as frequent.

Snow, or the lack of it, can also damage crops. A successful alfalfa yield is dependent upon snow cover, Jindra said.

Alfalfa is a dormant winter crop. If there is little snowfall, the seed could be killed.

Just like the weather, Jinda has noticed patterns where crops were typically destroyed. Early in his career, he noticed the same areas of farmland tended to get damaged during bad weather, he said.

However, that hasn't been the case the last 15 years or so. It seems to Jindra that the weather patterns are changing, he said.

Damaged crops have shown up in almost all areas, and it seems that those areas that were hardest hit 25 years ago are having less damage, he said.

"There's hardly been a year that was the same as the year before," he said.

"It's hard for farmers today to predict the weather. They say their grandfathers could forecast, but that they can't now," Jindra said.

For insurance agent Jeff Albers of Farm Bureau Financial Services in Glencoe, 2003 stands out in his mind. He's been in insurance for 16 years.

Last year, he received crop claims because of the drought. The majority of claims he received were for soybeans, but he expected that there would be a lot of corn claims too, he said.

However, due to the timing of the drought, the corn was able to withstand the lack of rain better than the soybeans.

Since today's farmers are more spread out land-wise, they could have damage in some fields, but have others that are untouched, he said.

Albers serves clients in eastern McLeod County, and small portions of Wright and Carver.

Weather wonders

From mid-July through mid-October 2003, precipitation totals were less than six inches across much of Minnesota, according to the Minnesota Extension Service.

Total rainfall for the mid-July through mid-October period fell short of historical averages by four or more inches in many areas.

When compared with other July 15 through October 20 time periods in the historical database, mid-July through mid-October 2003 rainfall totals rank among the lowest on record for many areas of south central and southeastern Minnesota, and a small portion of west central Minnesota.

 

Consider the following about 2002:

· 2002 was the third hottest summer on record nationwide, second to 1936 and 1934, according to the National Climatic Data Center.

· January finished as the fourth warmest January in modern-day record (1891-2002).

· February was the fifth warmest.

· March was a cold and snowy month. The coldest air of the Twin Cities 2001-02 winter was March 3 with a low of -3 degrees. That was the highest minimum ever recorded in a winter season (1891-2002), and broke the old record of -8 F that was set during the winter of 1982-1983.

· April was the second snowiest.

· June was the fifth wettest on record with 8.30 inches, according to the National Weather Service.

· August was the third wettest.

Approximately 2.95 inches of rain fell June 21 at the Twin Cities International Airport. This was the 21st highest precipitation total to fall on a calendar day. Torrential rains fell over the western Twin Cities, with the heaviest rains centered over Wright County. Delano reported 5.50 inches June 24.

· The dew point temperature at the Twin Cities International Airport July 20 topped out at 80 degrees (from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m).

This is rare ­ only 20 hours of such high dew points have been recorded since 1945.

The highest dew point temperature ever recorded in the Twin Cities was 81 degrees at 11 a.m. on July 30, 1999.

· September was the fourth wettest September on record.

· October was the third coldest Twin Cities October in modern record.

· November was the driest November in 61 years.

The snowfall total marked only the fifth November in the past 50 years in which there was half an inch or less.

The National Weather Service can be found at http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov.

The following is a sample of statistics about rainfall highs and lows.

 

Wettest Year Driest

41.01" in 1897 14.64" in 1910

39.32 in 1965 14.93 in 1976

37.26 in 1951 18.20 in 1933

36.69 in 1905 18.30 in 1901

36.18 in 1983 18.31 in 1992

35.71 in 1903 18.54 in 1923

35.59 in 1977 19.12 in 1925

35.42 in 1986 19.46 in 1989

35.13 in 1899 19.54 in 1987

34.94 in 2002 - 10th wettest year

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