Across Nebraska, farmers have felt the wrath of unpredictable weather on their crops this season. From straight line winds to inches of hail, many farmers are left with fields of dirt where crops should be. On top of record droughts, farmers around the state are making some tough decisions.
A few farmers in York County experienced near total devastation to many of their corn and soybean fields. A fast-moving wind and hailstorm leveled corn, turned bean stalks to sticks, and overturned pivots.
While any loss is devastating, farmers are resilient. After crop insurance adjusters evaluate the damage, the question then becomes “what do we do next?” Figuring out a way to preserve the integrity of the field and soil is of the utmost importance. Conversations of planting a forage to utilize nitrogen and prevent weed growth are being discussed. Some farmers are considering replanting their beans, praying they reach full maturity before the first frost.
Jenny Rees, a Nebraska Extension Educator serving York and Seward counties, specializes in crop protection and agronomy. She has seen firsthand how quickly weather can instantly change the viability of a crop.
“As I talk to producers, there are a lot of questions that circle the conversation moving forward,” said Rees. “Right now, we are really trying to manage the threat of weeds. With an open canopy, we are working to develop a plan, whether it be replanting beans, flying in brassicas, or covering with a small grain, to ensure that these fields are prepared for crops for years to come.”
When weather impedes production, farmers can turn to federal programs to help manage the loss. The Farm Service Agency (FSA) has several assistance programs available for producers. Noninsured Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) designed to help mitigate producer loss due to disaster but requires fields to be covered prior to disaster. If a field is already NAP designated and experiences loss, producers need to contact FSA immediately. Regardless of if producers have an NAP designation, if they experience loss of any kind -crop, outbuildings, pivots, etc.- it should be reported to FSA so they can determine if secretarial damage occurred. If it is deemed the community experienced secretarial damage, programs like Emergency Loan Program (ELP) are triggered and can provide further relief.
In addition to federal programming, the federal crop insurance that comes out of the farm bill builds a safety net for producers when disaster strikes. Jordan Dux, senior director of national affairs at Nebraska Farm Bureau stress the importance of keeping federal crop insurance a priority as the next farm bill is written.
“Federal crop insurance is vital to farmers across the country. Anymore, lenders will go as far as not lending to farmers without it,” says Dux. “Farmers have to purchase the product, so they have skin in the game, but it provides coverage for things outside of their control including price and weather. Farmers can use federal crop insurance as a risk management tool to ensure they can survive another year in the event of loss.”
With ongoing extreme weather events, it’s no surprise farmers and ranchers are experiencing more and more stress. While producers look at their damaged fields and decide what do to next, Rees stresses the importance of producers also taking care of themselves.
“As some of these producers face the realization of replanting for the second year in a row, as a community we want to make sure they are taking a break and taking care of themselves: mentally and physically,” said Rees.
While devastation is never easy, farmers and ranchers continue to press onward to make sure that consumers around the world have food, fiber, and energy.
If you or someone you know is struggling with anxiety, depression or another mental health challenge, you are not alone. Check out these available resources: https://www.fb.org/initiative/farm-state-of-mind