Report Does Not Include Impact To Businesses
By Jack Gurner
COFFEEVILLE – What looked like a promising year for Yalobusha County farmers has turned into a major disaster at harvest time with crop losses nearing $5 million dollars.
“This is just our best guess,” said Gary Crafton, County Director for the Farm Service Agency. Almost constant rainfall in September and much of the same in October is responsible for most of the losses.
The multi-million dollar estimate came from a meeting of the USDA Emergency Board last Thursday at the Farm Service Agency in Coffeeville. Actual damages won’t be known until all the figures and what’s left of the crops are gathered.
Crafton along with board members Jeff Tillman, Soil Conservation Technician for the USDA, and Steve Cummings, County Agent for the Mississippi State University Extension Service, are tasked with providing a damage report and estimating the losses.
During the meeting, the members agreed that not only were farmers going to be faced with actual losses, but also additional losses based on a reduction of quality that would have to be taken into consideration.
“I’m going to do a loss assessment report,” Crafton said. “We’ll use loan values that are set up by crop insurance and by our agency to come up with a dollar figure on loss.”
Crop losses shown in the report include:
• Peanuts – The board estimated that of the 1020 acres certified by the FSA, there would by about a 70 percent loss which translates to $246,857.38.
• Corn – There were 1741.5 acres certified in the county. Even though the crop is the least affected, the board estimated a 35 percent loss for a total of $264,965.62.
• Soybeans – 6566 acres were certified. The loss is 80% for a total of $1,430,555.28.
• Cotton – 4347.4 acres certified. That is less than half the normal acreage. The board estimates a 75 percent loss for a total of $1,492,953.63.
• Sweet potatoes – Only 622.6 acres were certified. But, a 70 percent loss means a high loss for a total dollar amount of $1,496,654.08.
Other losses included $25,000 in damage to conservation structures. The total for conservation structures is probably much higher, according to Tillman, but these were only the ones reported to the NRCS office as of the meeting date.
Also, the report didn’t include an estimate of losses from the 8373 acres of hay ground in the county.
The board members agreed that one factor that isn’t measured is the loss of income to farm workers that translates to lost income for businesses within the county.
“This report is not going to capture that,” Crafton added.
“Any time there is more than a 30 percent loss on dollar value, we’ll ask for a secretarial designation of disaster for Yalobusha County,” Crafton said. “We’ll get that. That will open up the possibility of ad hoc disaster programs.”
Under the new farm bill, losses will be determined for individual farmers based on all his operations and all income from those operations for a year, Crafton explained. ” It’s tied to the man and not the farm or the crop.”
“We’ll have to have a way to determine what his potential was, what he could have made, and what he actual did make at the end of a 12 month period.”
“The value of these crops are going to be based on the 12 month national average market price.” Crafton continued. “It’ll be a year before we can tell what people are going to make.”
“We’ve had a lot of disasters over the years,” he said. “But, Yalobusha County farmers rarely qualify. These farmers get out there and do what it takes to make a crop year in and year out regardless of the weather conditions. This is a year when there is nothing they can do about it.”
“There are those type farmers who try to fail for insurance purposes. But, not here. There’s a good bunch of farmers in Yalobusha County.”
Excessive Fall Rains Leave The State Soggy
By Bonnie Coblentz
MSU Ag Communications
MISSISSIPPI STATE – A very wet September and October left most of the state’s soil saturated, as many places have gotten rain in almost statistically impossible quantities.
Charles Wax, state climatologist and professor of geosciences at Mississippi State University, said February and May were unusually wet across much of the state, and the summer had few periods of dry weather. This caused many areas to have above-normal yearly rainfall totals when fall arrived. Then starting in September, rainfall began accumulating rapidly.
MSU had nearly 75 inches of rain from Jan. 1 to Oct. 20, 31 inches more than normal for this time. Jackson was 2 inches above normal with 47 inches for the year, while at 50 inches of rain, Stoneville was 9 inches above normal. Biloxi was right on track with 52.3 inches of rain.
“The big interest, though, is in the September to October period,” Wax said. “MSU received 19.44 inches of rain. The average is 6.15 inches, so that’s 13.29 inches above normal for that period. There’s a 99 percent chance of getting less than 15.9 inches during this time period, so you see how high that amount is compared to the past.”
During these same seven weeks, Jackson received 11.71 inches of rain — 4.79 inches above normal; Stoneville received 15.64 inches of rain – 9.41 inches above normal; and Biloxi received 11.46 inches of rain – 2.67 inches above normal.
“All of the state has seen above normal rainfall during this period,” Wax said.
Current soil moisture ratings have 91 percent of the state’s soil at surplus moisture, eight percent adequate and one percent is short.
Wax said the September rains were associated with an upper level low pressure area that stalled for at least two weeks just west of the state. It constantly drew in moisture from the Gulf of Mexico and dumped it across the state.
“The rain just rotated counter-clockwise around that low for days on end, moving from east to west across Mississippi,” Wax said.
More recent weather was the result of stalled fronts along the Gulf Coast, indicative of an El Nino occurrence.
“On Oct. 16, the Climate Prediction Center released its long-range forecast for a moderate El Nino to influence our winter weather,” Wax said. “Typically, that means a wet winter for us.”
Larry Oldham, soil specialist with the MSU Extension Service, said producers are trying to balance salvaging crops left in the fields and avoiding cutting ruts and compacting soil in cropland.
“If we have to go into these saturated soils with heavy equipment, we run the risk of increasing soil compaction issues,” Oldham said. “That will require effort to address when it does dry adequately.”
Saturated soils have loose water filling all the spaces between soil particles. Soil that is filled with water to what is called “field capacity” has water adhered to all available soil particles. Soil at field capacity can support weight, while saturated soil cannot support people and can become compacted.
Compacted soil has a dense layer of soil several inches below the surface. A person can test dry land for soil compaction by slowly probing the soil with a rod. The rod reaches resistance around 8-10 inches deep in soils that are compacted.
“Plant growth is limited in compacted soil, as there is reduced water and nutrient uptake,” Oldham said. “Producers must address the compaction issue, but soil has to be dry before this can be done.
“Producers who have compacted or rutted soil from running harvest equipment over saturated soils will have to factor in the additional cost of smoothing the ruts and subsoiling the land,” he said.
Compacted soils also dry out differently than other areas, keeping producers out of the field even longer.
“What’s above the compacted area may dry out sooner, but soil dries slower below that compacted layer,” he said.
Oldham said how fast land dries out depends on the type of soil it contains. Sandy soil drains and dries faster than others, and clay soils dry the slowest. Soils with actively growing crops dry out quickly, as these crops pump water out of the soil as they grow. Oldham said corn at tassel stage uses about one-fourth inch of water a day in 90 degree heat, pumping 7,000 to 8,000 gallons of water a day out of an acre of land.
Insurance Can Salvage Some Lost Crop Value
By Bonnie Coblentz
MSU Ag Communications
MISSISSIPPI STATE – Near-constant rains during harvest-time cost Mississippi farmers an estimated $371 million in losses, and producers with crop insurance may be the only ones able to salvage much more from the fields this year.
John Michael Riley, an agricultural economist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said harvest had just begun for much of the state’s crops when fall rains began. Cotton is expected to take the biggest hit, losing 43 percent of its potential value. Most corn was harvested before the rain, but only half the soybeans were harvested when the crop should have been nearly 80 percent complete.
“Total losses for row crops are expected to be around 23 percent of the potential value of the crop,” Riley said.
About 3.4 million acres of Mississippi cropland were insured this year. This number includes acreage planted in minor crops as well as major row crops. The state has almost 3.6 million acres of major crops.
“At this time, those producers who did not sign up for insurance have no options to mitigate their risks,” Riley said. “If they are not insured, they will have to absorb these losses with current operating capital, which will be tough given the already stressful economic environment.”
Riley said about the same percentage of Mississippi farmland is insured each year, and this year’s 3.4 million acres is just 3 percent above the five-year average. The many policies offered for crop insurance provide varying levels of coverage.
“The two major insurance products used, Actual Production History, or APH, and Crop Revenue Coverage, or CRC, account for 99 percent of the insured acres,” Riley said. “These products cover anywhere from 50 percent to 75 percent of the crop. The farmer decides on the level of coverage desired.”
Soybeans are taking the worst dollar-value hit with an estimated 30 percent loss, a value of $212 million.
“The majority of Mississippi’s 2.2 million acres of soybeans were near or at maturity when the wet weather began nearly six weeks ago,” said Trey Koger, Extension soybean specialist. “As a result, a significant amount of this acreage has not been harvested.”
Of the major row crops, cotton’s 43 percent loss is the largest. When cotton and cotton seed’s lost value is totaled, cotton farmers may see $82 million less than expected.
“Environmental conditions in 2009 have proven to be the most difficult that many growers have ever experienced,” said Darrin Dodds, Extension cotton specialist.
Estimates are that half the state’s sweet potato harvest is ruined, costing growers $34.6 million in lost revenue. Rice is taking a much lighter hit of 8 percent yield loss, but this is expected to add up to $25.7 million in lost value.
Corn losses are expected to reach $12.3 million on a 15 percent yield loss. Peanuts were not ready for harvest when the rains began, and no acres are expected to be abandoned. Losses for this crop are anticipated at 20 percent and $2.7 million.
Grain sorghum is expected to take the largest percentage loss of Mississippi’s major crops. The crop was 46 percent harvested by Sept. 20 when rains began, and all acres left unharvested were abandoned. MSU agricultural economists predict a $2 million loss for this crop.
Barry Barnett, Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station professor of agricultural economics, said this year’s crop failures point to the importance of crop insurance.
“A decision not to purchase crop insurance is, in essence, a decision to self-insure the crop,” Barnett said. “In making plans for next year, growers need to consider carefully how another year of severe yield losses would affect the financial viability of the farm.
“Crop insurance will not cover 100 percent of a grower’s yield loss, but a crop insurance payment can be the difference between being forced out of business and surviving until the next growing season,” he said.
Information from the MSU Extension Service on crop damage and losses, as well as the status of the state’s major row crops, is available online at http://msucares.com/cropdamage/