Written by Ken Moore, produced by Robert Potter
Arkansas Farm Bureau Public Relations
Brian Alumbaugh of McCrory in Woodruff County is like many of his neighbors in east-central Arkansas who are unsure about the future of their crops following record rainfall June 29.
While most of his corn, grain sorghum and rice may recover, soybeans are a different story. As much as a thousand acres were covered by floodwaters and he says there are no good options.
“I guess you could plant them back but I don’t see them making very good crops,” said Alumbaugh.
“I just, I don’t know. A lot of it depends on if the water gets off fast enough too. We’re running out of time on this thing. In my opinion you’re going to spend $100 to $150 an acre trying to put them back in. Then you’ve got to ask yourself with that yield deduction is it worth doing that and my math I don’t see where it all comes out.”
Farmers with flooded bean fields face difficult decisions. In addition to the expense and input costs involved in re-planting, soybeans planted in July risk damage from early frost before they can be harvested.
The flooding and damage was concentrated in Woodruff, Monroe, Prairie and St. Francis counties. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has designated 10 counties as primary disaster areas making them eligible for low interest emergency loans. Arkansas Agriculture secretary Butch Calhoun says though isolated to a few counties in east Arkansas, the losses will be great.
“The area of the damage is actually going to take in a lot more than the 75,000,” Calhoun said.
“I think we may be looking at close to that in total loss. But then we you go it out, you go from a 40 bushel yield down to a 25 bushel yield, it’s a wave effect, as it goes out from that. We don’t know exactly what the net loss is going to be, but it’s going to be huge. And if you’re one of those farmers, farming where it’s a total loss, it doesn’t matter what everybody else has got, it’s going to be a total loss. ”
The new Farm Bill removed ad-hoc disaster payments in situations like this, leaving southern farmers with the option of purchasing crop insurance. But Farm Bureau president Randy Veach says it will be a few years before farmers who choose to do so will benefit.
“We’re looking at 2015 before we can even sign up,” Veach said. “And so we’re looking at possibly 2016 before any help could be coming if there’s anything in there that would work.
“Now, crop insurance is in place but, most of our producers in Arkansas are not used to working with crop insurance because we mitigate so much of our risk with irrigation. So, when it comes to a flood situation we’ve always gone for an ad-hoc disaster assistance and get some money in for our producers. I think that’s close to impossible. That doesn’t mean we won’t try it, and we’re going to do everything we can to get some help for our producers that are extremely hurt and they’re going to be in a position that some of them may not be able to continue their operations because of the damage that they’ve had and the economic impact that’s going to be on their operations.”
Though the outlook for Alumbaugh’s soybean crop isn’t good, his perspective is.
“Eternally optimistic. That’s all you can say,” Alumbaugh said. “You have to be optimistic that next year will be a better year. Because you know that this one here, best case scenario is not going to be a good one. And you’ve got to finish this year out. Good, bad or ugly. You can’t quit at halftime.”
Farmers affected by the flood should contact their local Farm Service Agency or county extension agent for information on the type of assistance that will be available and when they may apply.