Michael Scuse is a farmer in Delaware. Currently, he's also an undersecretary of agriculture. He visited the Midwest, primarily Indiana, while his counterparts were visiting other states this week. His job was to get out of Washington and see what conditions were really like.
"I wanted to see it for myself and see what we could do to help," he says. "The corn we saw in northeastern Indiana Wednesday was in very poor shape. Crops on my own farm aren't a whole lot better.
Scuse visited Kelsay Dairy, operated by Merrill, Russ and Joe Kelsay, Whiteland, on Thursday, July 19. Joe Kelsay is also Director of the Indiana State Department of Agriculture.
When Scuse spoke he found that Kelsay had laid out sample ears from two of his fields, both planted in April. Their quick yield estimate was 38 for one field and 70 bushels per acre plus for the other. The primary problem was poor pollination during the hot Fourth of July week. Merrill's grandkids are the seventh generation on this farm.
"Adversity has occurred sometime during each generation on the farm," Scuse says. "Previous generations have faced it and got through it, and they will get through it this time too. Farmers are very resilient and optimistic.
"They have to be. When you apply fertilizer and chemicals and plant seed, you must believe you're going to grow a crop or you wouldn't do it. I know this is a good production area. I'm going to come back next year and hopefully see the best of the best, corn producing 200 bushels per acre in a much better year."
Scuse acknowledged that about all the Farm Service Agency has to offer in the way of help for farmers in counties declared a disaster, or farmers in counties contiguous to a disaster county, is low interest loans. The loan rate has been dropped form 3.75% to 2.35%. However, a person must meet borrowing requirements. In this case that means being turned down by commercial lenders and being able to prove that you can't get a loan somewhere else.
Allowances for disaster provisions under the 2008 Farm Bill have already expired, Scuse notes. He's hopeful that Congress will pass a farm bill quickly which includes these provisions. Then FSA might have more ways to help people suffering through a very tough year.