The hot, dry Indiana summers normally make local farmers look to the sky hoping for rain.
But this year, they prayed for it to stop.
One of the wettest summers on record in central Indiana has resulted in lagging crop growth and widespread losses in farmers’ fields. Wet weather delayed planting of row crops in the spring, and the continuing rain drowned fields.
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Johnson County is one of 53 Indiana counties requesting to be declared agricultural disaster areas after heavy rains and significant flooding this summer. Farmers are reporting that nearly one-third of their corn, soybeans and other crops have been destroyed by flooded creeks and rivers as well as by pooling water in fields.
“It’s really scattered from one end of the county to the other. There are some fields that look really good, though the rain has affected the yield to some extent from having too much of it. Then there are some corn and soybean fields that are pretty much shot,” said Brian Catt, executive director for the Farm Service Agency in Johnson County. “The losses go from zero to 100, depending on the farm.”
In Johnson County, the Farm Service Agency estimates a 30 percent loss on soybeans, Catt said. Corn losses won’t be that high, and the recent stretch of dry, hot weather could help save some of those waterlogged areas.
Farmers will have to wait and see what the next few weeks bring to truly determine how bad losses will be, Catt said.
The most recent U.S. Department of Agriculture crop report highlights how scattered the damage is in Indiana. The report released July 26 shows that 25 percent of the state’s corn and 27 percent of soybeans are considered either poor or very poor.
At the same time, 46 percent of corn and 41 percent of soybeans are good or very good.
“It’s been an unusual summer in terms of the rain,” said Julia Wickard, executive director of the Farm Service Agency in Indiana. “For many parts of our state, there are areas where crop didn’t get planted or all or acreage that did get planted failed when root stands didn’t take.”
Greenwood recorded 24.3 inches of rain fell between May and July. Franklin reported 20.8 inches of rain between May 18 and July 31, according to the Midwest Regional Climate Center. The normal rainfall for that time period is 11.5 inches.
What has made the rain so damaging is that much of it came in July, when crops need dry weather to properly develop.
For the Indianapolis area, it was the wettest July since 1871, with 13.14 inches of rain falling. Parts of Greenwood received between 10 and 15 inches during the month.
Gov. Mike Pence, Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann and Wickard sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture last week requesting the disaster declaration.
That official request follows weeks of surveying and information gathering from Indiana’s farmers about the extent of damage. The data will be provided to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for further scrutiny.
If the designation is granted, all farmers suffering losses in the county will have access to low-interest emergency loans to make up for the crop destruction, Wickard said.
“We hope to hear soon, but we know that other parts of the country are facing wildfires and flooding themselves,” she said. “We’ve been in regular contact with our national office and making sure they have all of the information they need, so we think we’ll know relatively soon.”
Until that declaration is made, though, the only protection that farmers have against their losses is crop insurance, Catt said. No other disaster programs exist anymore, so those affected by the flooding this summer will have to hope their insurance covers their costs or that they can apply for the emergency loans.
While the process is ongoing, farmers are encouraged to continue to submit crop damage reports to their county Farm Service Agency offices, Wickard said.
On July 31, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence announced he had sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture requesting that 53 Indiana counties be declared disaster areas.
Why was it done?
The counties included in the declaration have reported 30 percent or more crop losses this summer due to heavy rainfall and flooding.
What will the disaster declaration accomplish?
If the declaration is approved, all farmers in the county will be allowed to apply for low-interest emergency loans to offset the losses.
When will they know?
The U.S. Department of Agriculture will make a determination in the coming weeks.
How to get more information?
Contact the county’s Farm Services Agency at 736-6822.