Farm Horizons, August 2011
Plowin’ through: Local farmers deal with this year’s rainfall
By Julie Krienke
While driving through any of the surrounding counties, one may have noticed standing water in the fields and corn planted nearby.
Excessive rainfall has not been uncommon during this year’s growing season, and many local farmers have been impacted tremendously.
There is no doubt that each farmer has his own story to tell when it comes this year’s planting season, and even county officials have seen effects throughout the area.
The Farm Service Agency (FSA), a national organization that oversees agricultural activity in each state, monitors the acreage of cropland in each county that does not get planted.
The number of acres that didn’t get planted this season, referred to as prevented acres, was similar in the counties of Wright, Meeker, McLeod, Carver, and Sibley.
Wright County and Meeker County
“Wright County and Meeker County are in very much the same situation, with flooding pretty much throughout the county,” said Kevin Bergquist, county executive director of the Wright County FSA in Buffalo.
Because of the excessive amount of flooding that took place early in the planting season, many farmers were delayed in planting corn and had to turn to other crops.
“We saw more soybeans because they can be planted later in the year and still get a good crop,” Bergquist said.
Yet, there was still a small amount of acreage that never got planted due to excessive water build-up.
“There was much land that did get mudded out,” Bergquist said. “Heavy rains drowned that out so farmers couldn’t use it.”
During this season, Wright County has 1,874 acres of land that could not be planted and 183,002 acres that was planted, according to data from the Minnesota State Farm Service Agency Aug. 4.
This means that around 1 percent of the total acreage in Wright County consisted of prevented acres.
For Meeker County, the results have been similar, with 5,295 prevented acres and 247,795 planted acres, meaning around 2 percent of the total acreage was not planted.
“I think every farmer has been affected by the flooding,” Bergquist said. “It’s just one of those things that is so individualized.”
Once the summer brought heat and humidity, the story began to change.
“The hot and steamy weather has been a God-send for the crops because now they have progressed,” Bergquist said.
Currently, farmers are busy spraying for soybean aphids and preparing for the harvest.
“The biggest thing about this year is that crops are uneven,” Bergquist said. “We’ll know how the year went when we run the combines through in the fall.”
Though flooding got farmers in McLeod County off to a slow start, officials at the McLeod County FSA are hoping for the best.
“The outlook now is a lot better than we thought it would be at the end of May when farmers had trouble getting out in the fields,” said Julie Welter, county executive director at the McLeod County Farm Service Agency.
During this year’s season, McLeod County planted 214,114 acres of land.
With 4,958 prevented acres, the county has sustained a 2.3 percent loss.
“The excessive moisture has been tremendous,” Welter said. “We have seen people going back and planting.”
The large amount of moisture that was received at the beginning of the season set farmers in McLeod County back and prevented them from getting crops in right away.
“The couple weeks of hot weather helped us out, even though the humidity has been bad for livestock producers,” Welter said.
When looking ahead toward the harvest, McLeod County FSA officials are hoping for a late frost and dry weather.
“We could definitely have the water faucets shut off for awhile,” Welter joked.
For Carver County, the results have been similar to surrounding areas.
During this season, Carver County planted 118,760 acres of land, with an added 619 prevented acres.
This means that the county sustained less than 1 percent loss by acre.
“It’s all over the board because there have been good yields and some really bad ones due to late planting,” said Jon Sandholm, county executive director of the Carver County FSA in Waconia.
Though flooding has been seen throughout the county, Sandholm said that the northwest area of the county has seen the worst effects.
“At this point, farmers got in what they got in, but continued wet conditions make it hard to see where there is standing water as plants get higher,” Sandholm said.
Yet, the planting of less acreage may not be due solely to this season’s weather conditions.
“Carver County continues to lose acreage due to development,” Sandholm said. ‘When areas are developed, that’s cropland lost.”
When it comes to the fall harvest, county officials are unsure of what will happen.
“There is still so much that could happen,” Sandholm said. “How early the frost is will really affect it.”
Throughout Sibley County, officials observed dramatic increases in rainfall over the past few months.
“We had county-wide data that said normal rainfall is three and a half inches in Sibley, and this year we had five inches in May,” said Wendy Bigaouette, compliance program technician at the Sibley County FSA.
“Since May, we have had 18 inches, averaging six inches a month,” Bigaouette added.
County-wide there were 265,172 planted acres and 3,394 prevented acres, meaning Sibley County sustained around 1 percent loss by acre.
“It’s been a different year because planting was at least two weeks behind,” Bigaouette said. “There was not much planted before May 15.”
The warm weather of recent months has helped dry up some of the water that flooded fields early in the season.
“The recent heat has helped move the crop along, but it still needs so much time to mature,” Bigaouette said. “I’m expecting yields to be down.”
FSA services offered to farmers
The Minnesota State Farm Service Agency offers a variety of services and programs to farmers.
• Emergency Conservation Program (ECP) provides funding for farmers that have been affected by wind, floods, and other natural disasters.
• The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) is a voluntary program offered to agricultural producers to help them protect environmentally sensitive land. The program involves planting in order to improve the quality of water and control soil erosion.
• The Grassland Reserve Program (GRP) is a voluntary program that helps landowners protect, restore, and enhance grassland on their property.
• Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) provides financial assistance to eligible producers that have been affected by drought, flood, and other natural disasters.
For a full listing of FSA services, visit www.fsa.usda.gov.