Field flooding

Following heavy storms on June 15, a field north of Ind. 22 looked like a lake. It doesn't expect to be a banner year for Howard County farmers, as rain was problematic during the planting season and after.

Tim Bath | Kokomo Tribune

{child_flags:featured}{child_flags:editors_pick}Howard, Miami, Tipton counties requesting disaster relief following dismal planting season

{child_byline}By Carson Gerber

Kokomo Tribune{/child_byline}

Howard, Miami and Tipton counties are part of a state request to secure a disaster designation from the U.S. Department of Agriculture due to losses caused by flooding and excessive rain this planting season.

The request was made Friday for 88 counties in a letter to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue and signed by Gov. Eric Holcomb, Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch and Indiana Farm Service Agency Executive Director Steven Brown.

A USDA disaster designation can be requested when at least 30 percent of one crop is damaged or lost in a county. Of the state’s 92 counties, 88 counties have reported data meeting that threshold.

The designation would allow emergency low-interest loans to be made available to farmers. The low-interest financing can also be made to counties contiguous to counties in the disaster zone.

In Howard and Miami counties, hay was the crop which allowed the county to request the disaster designation request.

Howard County Extension Educator Mathias Ingle said after crunching the numbers, it appears that most of the area’s corn and soybeans were able to get planted.

“I think we’ll have an okay year with those crops,” he said. “It won’t be the greatest year, but I think we’ll be able to look back on it and say, ‘Hey, we survived.’”

It’s a different story in Tipton County. Extension Educator Austin Pearson said all the crops in the county, including corn and soybeans, qualified the county for the disaster designation request.

He said just on Wednesday, up to 5 inches of rain hit the western part of the county, leading to flooded fields. That came after 2 inches of rain fell last Friday in the northern part of the county.

“Our growers are struggling right now,” Pearson said. “It’s been a tough year and they’re all ready for this season to be over soon. Farmers are saying these are the worst fields in their lifetime.”

Mathias said if the disaster designation is approved and low-interest loans are made available, it could have a real impact on some farmers’ ability to survive this year.

“It will allow the farmers that did not have a good year to continue to keep going and continue to make payments on their equipment or land or other expenditures,” he said.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration data shows that the past 12 months have been the wettest on record in the United States.

Gov. Holcomb said that heavy and persistent rain has saturated fields across the state and hurt Indiana crop farmers.

“As I continue to monitor this situation, Hoosier farmers can rest assured that we will keep a close eye on the long-term effects of these relentless rains,” he said in a release.

The disaster relief request comes after the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced this week it would extend Indiana’s crop acreage reporting deadline to July 22. Indiana was one of 12 states to receive the extended deadline.

Crop acreage reports document crops, their intended uses and are utilized for record-keeping at Hoosier farms.

The USDA noted that filing a timely crop acreage report is important for maintaining eligibility for USDA conservation, disaster assistance, safety net, crop insurance and farm loan programs.

Indiana’s two U.S. senators, Republicans Mike Braun and Todd Young, and eight of the state’s U.S. representatives had on June 20 sent a letter to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue asking the federal government to “consider efforts to mitigate the immediate and long-term effects of planting hardship in Indiana.”

“The Indiana delegation remains united in strengthening our rural communities, which benefit our entire state,” said the signers of the letter in the release. “Indiana is a national leader in corn and soybean production, and we are glad the USDA heard our call for action to help mitigate the immediate and long-term effects of planting hardship in Indiana.”

Farmers filing reports with Farm Service Agency (FSA) county offices are encouraged to schedule an appointment before visiting the office, according to the USDA.

Howard County’s FSA office is located at 1103 S. Goyer Road and can be reached at 765-457-2114.

Acreage reports will be considered timely filed as long as appointments are set up before the July 22 deadline, even if the appointment itself occurs after the deadline.

For more information, visit the USDA’s Prevented or Delayed Planting webpage.

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Carson Gerber can be reached at 765-854-6739, carson.gerber@kokomotribune.com or on Twitter @carsongerber1.

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Carson Gerber can be reached at 765-854-6739, carson.gerber@kokomotribune.com or on Twitter @carsongerber1.

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Carson Gerber is a reporter for the Kokomo Tribune and can be reached at 765-854-6739, carson.gerber@kokomotribune.com or on Twitter @carsongerber1.

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