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What consumers need to know about storm damaged crops

Courtesy of Minnesota Farm Living
Corn crop under water

The farming community landscapes have changed in southern Minnesota. Changed because of Mother Nature’s onslaught. Tonight, many of my farming neighbors have destroyed or damaged grain bins, missing roof steel from barns and buildings, blackened cropland from hail, uprooted trees or debris littered fields and farm sites.

And we are part of that community. Our farm did not escape the wrath.

After spending the entire day cleaning the aftermath of torrential rains and high winds, there are just some things consumers need to know about how these devastating storms affect farmers and how it affects their visit to the grocery store. Granted, the storm damage could have been worse and my heart goes to those communities that suffered more damage. But as a farmer, my heart aches when I see what was a beautiful corn crop, now submersed in water—land that disguises itself as waterfront property and not the green, lively corn fields they were just a couple days ago.

These corn plants are now dead.

So what do we do? It’s too late to plant a new corn crop. We have no idea when the water will recede and dry up to the point that tractors can drive back in without getting stuck. There may be time to plant soybeans but, unfortunately, the crop protectant used is specifically made for corn and not soybeans. Planting soybeans with the wrong crop protectant residue may not allow these plants to grow normally, if at all. 

What about insurance? Yes, we have purchased multi-peril crop insurance which gives us protection for any type of damage to our crops. The issue with the insurance is there must be a fairly significant loss in order to collect. In all honestly, we would much rather grow a crop than collect insurance proceeds.

How significant is the dollar loss from the damage? According to Southwestern Minnesota Farm Business Management 2013 Annual Report, the cost to grow an acre of corn is anywhere from $500-$800 per acre. It varies widely because input costs can vary significantly for each individual farmer. All of these costs are typically paid up front before the crop is planted. If a 10-acre corn field is under water, there is NO crop to harvest. No crop means no revenue to recoup the expenses that will probably be $5000-$8000.

So how do you pay for the expenses when there is no crop? The costs will get absorbed over the rest of the acres, which will result is a higher cost overall to grow a bushel of corn. The higher cost could be more than what the market is paying for that bushel of corn resulting in a net loss for the farmer.

How will consumers be affected? Consumers need to know that unless there is widespread damage, their prices in the grocery stores will not be affected. They need to realize most food does not originate from faceless corporations, but rather from family farms. They also need to know there are individual farmers who feel pain, anger and disappointment when mother nature comes knocking at their doors uninvited and creating havoc on their crops. And chances are, consumers will never be aware of it. 

After a while, farmers grow weary. In southern Minnesota, we have been in a drought the last three years. Even with all the rain we received this month, we may still end up in a drought. It all depends on what Mother Nature has in store for us in July or August. And, unfortunately, we can’t bargain with her. She is in control. 

Volatility surrounds farming. Two days ago, our crops looked good. Today, not so much. In the end, we are resilient. Foremost, we are thankful for our homes and families. It’s events like this that are used as reminders about what is really important. But, at the same time, our hearts still ache when we see the devastation…

This post was written by Wanda Patsche and originally published on Minnesota Farm Living. Follow Wanda on Twitter: @MinnFarmer.

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Comments (1)

  1. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/22/2014 - 12:32 pm.

    Consumers know more than you think

    When these disasters hit farms its always well covered by the news media. There’s a lot of compassion in this country and this state for family farmers, the insurance you have is heavily subsidized for that reason. The truth is consumers don’t pay much attention to fluctuations in prices so that’s almost never the point, we’re not going to stop buying milk or pork in any event.

    I get the feeling that the term “consumer” here is really a reference to urbanites or city dwellers. It’s Ironic that rural farmers recognize their place in a larger community when they face a crises, and think it necessary to remind consumers.

    I would remind folks that politically in this state we tend to have a rural/urban schism wherein the rural areas tend to vote for Republicans who have been champions of individualistic ideologies, tax cuts, and spending cuts to statewide programs that tie us together and seek to distribute collective resources more equitably. When one looks at the geography of the Marriage Amendment vote for instance it appears that the notion of community membership is much narrower in rural MN than urban MN. It seems that rural residents tend to brag about their independence… until there’s a flood, or a fire, or a tornado, and then its time to remind everyone that we’re all in this together. I’m not complaining I’m just saying.

    As for mother nature, should we talk about who’s been issuing climate change warnings for decades and who’s been ignoring those warnings? Again, who’s been thinking globally and who’s been thinking locally?

    I understand the nature of farming, and I’ve always supported farmers. It IS important to remember that we are interconnected, we’re all human beings, and we live within a number communities from large to small. That understanding needs to go both ways, and shouldn’t be driven by crises, it’s an existential reality every day. So the next time someone brags about screwing democrats (i.e. your fellow citizens) or republicans, think about whether or not that person deserves another vote.

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