Flooding affecting crops, will make replanting difficult

For farmers with fields along the two rivers that run through Jackson County, it’s too late to replant flood-damaged crops.

Brian Thompson of Seymour recently flew in his airplane a few times to assess his fields in the bottoms along the East Fork White River.

A photo taken June 22 showed the river out of its banks and covering a soybean field, and another shot six days later showed the damage after the river had receded.

Of his 500 acres of soybeans, Thompson estimated losing less than 50 acres. For his 500 acres of corn, he lost less than 10 acres.

“We’re down to the wire as far as we’re going to have just a few days and it’s going to be over,” Thompson said of the opportunity to replant. “Crops won’t be able to reach maturity. It will be too late.”

The forecast calls for a chance of rain most of this week.

“If it stays wet all this week and all next week, that will about put us outside of the replant window,” Thompson said. “There’s a chance that we may run out of time.”

Thompson also has some crops planted on clay ground away from the river, and standing water in those fields is keeping oxygen out of the soil, which could kill roots.

Craig Klinge has acreage near the Muscatatuck River, and he estimates losing 15 percent of his total crop. His crops along the river bottoms area near Crothersville suffered the most damage, losing 50 to 60 percent.

The remnants of Tropical Storm Bill dropped 5½ to 8 inches of rain in one day along parts of that river a couple of weekends ago, Klinge said.

“We still have water in those fields, and then we got more rain Friday and Saturday and more rain (Monday),” he said. “Every rain event that we keep getting keeps pushing those days back (to replant).”

Klinge said he recently drove on U.S. 31 from Franklin to South Bend, and he said flooding has made a bigger impact in the northern part of the state. In some places, the water nearly reached the highway.

“We think we’ve got it bad at home, it’s worse up there,” Klinge said.

Jeff Fisher, county executive director of the Farm Service Agency office in Brownstown, said he agreed that replanting time for corn and soybeans had run out.

“Soybeans maybe, but they would be late,” Fisher said. “If we had a dry week, they might be able to get the late soybeans in, but it’s really pretty late in the year.”

Fisher said there was a dry spell when rain was needed when it came, but the area didn’t need quite as much as it received.

“The thing with Jackson County, the last couple of years, we’ve missed the flood,” he said. “But there (was a time) when we had flooding three years in a row. It’s just kind of the normal part of farming in Jackson County.”

Agriculture experts told The Associated Press that this month’s heavy rain and flooding have reduced the value of Indiana’s crops by nearly $300 million. Damage could escalate with more wet weather.

The projected corn and soybean harvest for the state dropped about 5 percent since heavy rainfall began in early June, Purdue University agricultural economist Chris Hurt told the AP on Friday.

“We went from a well above-normal crop to a very discouraging, below-normal crop,” Hurt said at a special news briefing at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. “This was a very devastating period.”

Hurt said 15 percent or more of crops in some Hoosier counties are in “very poor” condition. Parts of northern Indiana have seen a foot or more of rain this month, swamping some fields. In southwestern Indiana, lowland flooding continues.

Grain prices are starting to increase as the extent of the crop damage becomes apparent, Hurt said. But the higher prices could be offset by reduced yields and increased expenses from replanting flood-damaged fields.

“There are very major reasons for concern,” Hurt said.

Long-range forecasts project above-average rainfall for much of the Midwest through the summer, The Associated Press reported.

At a glance

Sign-ups for the Agriculture Risk Coverage and Price Loss Coverage programs have begun at the Farm Service Agency office at 1350 Woodside Drive, Brownstown.

The Agricultural Act of 2014 (the 2014 Farm Bill) authorized the ARC and PLC programs, which are administered by U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency. The programs provide revenue and price-loss payments to eligible producers for the 2014 through 2018 crop years.

Producers who participate in ARC/PLC are subject to an acre-for-acre payment reduction when fruits, vegetables and wild rice are planted on the base acres of a farm.

The deadline to sign up is Sept. 30.

For information, call 812-358-2367.

Author photo
Zach Spicer is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at zspicer@tribtown.com or 812-523-7080.