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Farmers Fear Crop Loss Following Torrential Rains

Corn and soybean fields have been turned into lakes in parts of northern Iowa.

A week ago the corn crop in north central Iowa looked like it was going to be huge, maybe 200 bushels per acre on a number of farms. But that won't be the case after this latest round of storms, farmers say. After a dry July, it seems as though Mother Nature is now trying to drown the northern half of Iowa.

After getting dumped on by downpours during the past five or six days, some of the corn in low-lying areas near Fort Dodge and Humboldt is standing in water up to its ears on August 23. In some parts of fields stalks have fallen over from the wind and saturated soil. "We've definitely lost the yields in many of these fields where we were looking very good just a week before," says Deb Keller, who farms north of Webster City.

Similar problems with high water in fields are being reported across central and northwest Iowa, but agronomists say it is too early to tell for sure what impact the torrential rains will have on Iowa's overall 2007 corn and soybean production. Widespread crop losses could push corn and soybean prices higher.

Cornstalks rising above floodwaters

"Most of the corn crop won't need any more moisture. That's the positive way to look at this," says Roger Elmore, Iowa State University Extension agronomist.

Large areas of northern Iowa and southern Minnesota have received up to 10 inches of rain in the past week. Humboldt County received 12.5 inches of rain over a 5-day period, bringing the total for August to 15.2 inches, says Harry Hillaker, state climatologist for the Iowa Department of Agriculture. That breaks the county's rainfall record for any single month. The old record for Humboldt County was 13.3 inches, set in September of 1965.

Elmore says a number of farmers in these flood-affected areas are looking at some sizable yield losses. "But we'll have to wait and see what those numbers will be," he adds. The flooding could kill some of the crops and promote diseases, reducing crop yields.

Looking to the east, it's also plenty wet. The town of Charles City as of August 23 has received over 9.5 inches since Saturday August 18.

Governor declares counties disaster areas

Six counties have now been declared disaster areas by Iowa Governor Chet Culver. Culver's declaration was made on August 22 after state and local management officials briefed the governor about ongoing flooding in the area.

"I continue to monitor this situation very closely," says Culver. "Forecasts predict continued rain in the coming days over areas that have already been inundated by recent storms. I encourage Iowans in north central and northwest Iowa to be mindful and use caution when traveling, and be prepared if you live in an area prone to flooding. As the situation warrants, I stand ready to amend this proclamation to help those Iowans who have been affected by these storms."

On August 22 Culver issued a proclamation of disaster emergency for Boone, Calhoun, Humboldt, Palo Alto, Pocahontas, and Webster counties as a result of heavy rains that have produced flooding in north-central and north-west Iowa. The emergency declaration is a procedural step that allows state resources to be deployed to local communities affected by the storm.

The proclamation automatically triggers Iowa's new individual disaster assistance program for people with low incomes. Iowans with household incomes of up to 130% of federal poverty guidelines may apply for a grant of up to $3,300 to help recover from flood damage. Culver emphasized that this is a reimbursement program, meaning that applicants must include receipts when applying for help.
The grant application and instructions on how to fill it out are found on the front page of the Department of Human Services Web site Look for the words "Summer Storm Help." Or you can call (877) 937-3663 to find out more.

TAGS: USDA Extension
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