Robyn Scherer, M.Agr. | Staff Reporter

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July 16, 2012
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Drought Disaster in Nebraska

The current wide spread drought is starting to take its toll, as hot weather and little precipitation wreck havoc on dryland crops across the state. Corn, the state’s number one producing crop, is receiving stress at a crucial time.

On July 12, the USDA declared 1,016 counties in 26 states disaster-areas, the biggest declaration in USDA history. The Nebraska counties are Banner, Chase, Dawson, Dundy, Franklin, Frontier, Furnas, Gosper, Harlan, Hayes, Hitchcock, Kimball, Lincoln, Perkins, Phelps and Red Willow.

“We had another full week of hot temperatures and no rainfall. Pastures continued to deteriorate. They are brown and no green grown occurring. The dryland crops in the south half of the county are gone. Many have turned white and died. Others are curled up from the heat. Rain now will probably not help it. It is even difficult to keep enough water on the irrigated corn to keep it going. Corn is tasseled and pollinating. Producers are worried about the extreme heat during the pollination process,” according to comments to the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) submitted from Franklin County FSA and Extension personnel.

About a third of the counties in the U.S. are now eligible for low-interest loans to help them get through the drought, according to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

“Agriculture remains a bright spot in our nation’s economy and it is increasingly important that USDA has the tools to act quickly and deliver assistance to farmers and ranchers when they need it most,” said Vilsack. “By amending the Secretarial disaster designation, we’re creating a more efficient and effective process. And by delivering lower interest rates on emergency loans and providing greater flexibility for haying and grazing on CRP lands, we’re keeping more farmers in business and supporting our rural American communities through difficult times. With these improvements, we’re also telling American producers that USDA stands with you and your communities when severe weather and natural disasters threaten to disrupt your livelihood.”

The declaration covers counties in the following states: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Wyoming.

The declaration also speeds up the process for disaster claims, and reduces the penalty to ranchers for grazing livestock on land that has been set aside for conservation.

A final rule that simplifies the process for Secretarial disaster designations will result in a 40 percent reduction in processing time for most counties affected by disasters, according to the USDA.

The interest rate will be cut from 3.75 percent to 2.25 percent, and a payment reduction on Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) lands qualified for emergency haying and grazing in 2012 is reduced from 25 to 10 percent. As much as $39 million is available under the lower interest rate program.

Roughly 53 percent of the Midwest is in extreme drought, which is where the majority of the corn is grown. As of July 8, 40 percent of the country’s crop was rated good to excellent, which dropped 8 percentage points from the previous week. It is the lowest for this time of year since 1988, according to the USDA.

In the state of Nebraska, corn silked was 50 percent, compared to 6 perent last year and 14 percent average. Corn in the dough stage was 1 percent, compared to 0 percent last year and average. Corn conditions declined and rated 7 percent very poor, 13 percent poor, 33 percent fair, 40 percent good and 7 percent excellent, well below last year’s 84 percent good to excellent and 81 percent average. Irrigated corn conditions rated 65 percent good to excellent and dryland corn rated 22 percent.

“I think the conditions vary greatly, especially as we work our way across the state. The eastern part is more advanced than the west. It’s a very critical time where we need rain. If we don’t get it, the crop will continue to deteriorate. The crop is not as advanced on the west. The Southwest part is where we have picked up moisture are very beneficiary, and it will hopefully be enough to carry us through pollination. They will need rain in the next two to three weeks to finish it out though,” said Kelly Brunkhorst, Director of Research for the Nebraska Corn Board.

He continued, “I think as we look at irrigated yields, those will still be strong. After pollination we will know more. We will be able to look at the ears and see how they did pollinate. On the dryland side, it will be anyone’s guess. The Eastern part has weathered the drought pretty decently though.”

The dryland side will depend greatly on the rain that is received the next few weeks, and the temperature. However, even if they get rain and lower temperatures, the yield is still expected to be down. “Obviously we know on the dryland side we will see a shorter crop than what was expected. If we can get rain in the next two to three weeks and cooler temperatures, it could help with fill. However, there is still a concern over what it’s already done to the crop and that it will have a hard time recovering.

Pastureland also continues to deteriorate. Pasture and range conditions rated 26 percent very poor, 33 percent poor, 28 percent fair, 13 percent good, and 0 percent excellent, well below 83 percent good to excellent last year and 80 average.

Nebraska Governor Dave Haineman announced July 12 that the early roadside haying has been expanded statewide. Applications to hay all Nebraska roadsides will now be open to all citizens.

The Governor directed the Nebraska Department of Roads to advance the starting date for all roadside haying to July 16, where the previous effective date would have been August 1. Under current rules, the abutting landowner has the first opportunity of harvesting hay along state highways; however with the current high need for hay, advancing the start date for all Nebraskans to harvest roadside hay will provide important relief to producers.

Last week, Gov. Heineman authorized an emergency declaration for statewide drought that allows state personnel and resources to assist with emergency situations and prevention, and allows maximum flexibility to the state to deploy Nebraska National Guard and Nebraska Emergency Management Agency assets and resources as needed.

The Governor and the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency will continue to monitor the situation throughout the state, as the drought continues.

USDA encourages all farmers and ranchers to contact their crop insurance companies and local USDA Farm Service Agency Service Centers, as applicable, to report damages to crops or livestock loss. In addition, USDA reminds livestock producers to keep thorough records of losses, including additional expenses for such things as food purchased due to lost supplies.

“Producers need to continue to visit with their insurance agent and see what the options are. If they need someone to come out and see the crop, they should do that. I think the most important thing is that communication needs to be open,” said Brunkhorst.

USDA’s crop insurance program currently insures 264 million acres, 1.14 million policies, and $110 billion worth of liability on about 500,000 farms. ❖

Agriculture remains a bright spot in our nation’s economy and it is increasingly important that USDA has the tools to act quickly and deliver assistance to farmers and ranchers when they need it most.”
~ Tom Vilsack Agriculture Secretary

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The Fence Post Updated Oct 16, 2013 02:53PM Published Sep 17, 2012 08:27AM Copyright 2012 The Fence Post. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.