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Few changes seen in post-flood crop insurance

Agriculture.com Staff 06/23/2008 @ 7:26am

May 30 was a tough day for Paul VandeNoord. On the day of the funeral of his mother, the Skunk River went out of its banks on his farm north of Pella, Iowa. The same day, a tornado destroyed a two-year-old machine shed and a 25,000-bushel grain bin at another farm his family owns near Bussey, Iowa.

On Saturday, things looked a little better. The Skunk River floodwaters had receded enough that the gravel road to his farm was passable. And about 30 fellow farmers showed up to share flood recovery ideas with Senator Tom Harkin, Representative Leonard Boswell and Iowa's Agriculture Secretary, Bill Northey.

There was no shortage of ideas at the meeting in VandeNoord's machine shed. Several farmers favored a change in crop insurance rules that would allow them to collect an indemnity payment on already flooded crops and to replant a different crop on their own before the date in the policy that requires them to try to replant the same crop again. That date when it's considered still practical to replant is June 25 for corn but for soybeans it won't arrive until July 10. Planting sooner would give soybeans a better chance to mature before frost.

Iowa Farm Bureau President Craig Lang was one of the farmers at the meeting. He said he thought that change, which might require legislation, is unlikely, and it faces resistance in the insurance industry. Farm Bureau has already contacted USDA's Risk Management Agency about it, he said.

"We called them this week and it wasn't 'no,' it was 'hell, no,'" he said of RMA's response.

One idea that may get a faster response was a request to allow haying and grazing on Conservation Reserve Program acres immediately, instead of waiting until August 2, in a move USDA has already announced to ease the feed shortage. With corn prices above $7 a bushel, every day of delay is critical for a livestock industry that's already suffering, the political leaders were told.

"I'll talk to [Agriculture Secretary Ed] Schafer first thing Monday morning," Harkin promised the group.

He also promised to follow up on complaints about the way the Army Corps of Engineers manages the water levels in flood control reservoirs like Saylorville and Red Rock. Several farmers at the meeting said that the interests of boaters and recreational fishing seem to prevail over flood control every year.

Meanwhile, Paul VandeNoord and his son, Mark, aren't giving up, even though they worry that a drought or early frost might follow this spring's flooding. Similar things have happened in other wet years on their farm.

VandeNoord said that out of some 2,000 acres that he farms, he lost about 450 acres of crops due to flooding and another 130 acres were in poor condition.

"I'll probably try to get some beans planted, probably up to the Fourth of July," he said.

May 30 was a tough day for Paul VandeNoord. On the day of the funeral of his mother, the Skunk River went out of its banks on his farm north of Pella, Iowa. The same day, a tornado destroyed a two-year-old machine shed and a 25,000-bushel grain bin at another farm his family owns near Bussey, Iowa.

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