Serving Minnesota and Northern Iowa.

More decisions for producers who haven't planted corn

By Janet Kubat Willette

Date Modified: 06/20/2013 10:30 AM

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Seemingly never-ending rainfall this spring has pushed corn planting dates in parts of southern Minnesota beyond the final planting date for full crop insurance coverage.

This has put farmers in the position of deciding whether to take the prevented planting option on their crop insurance or try to plant during the late planting period, which began June 1 and runs through June 25.

Crop Insurance Services of Mankato held two meetings in New Richland last week to discuss producer's options. The meetings drew 120 people. AgStar Financial Services also held meetings last week, drawing more than 800 people.

Ron Smith, risk management executive with AgStar Financial Services, said the area most behind on planting progress runs from Albert Lea through Owatonna over to Red Wing and down the Mississippi River. The eastern half of Houston County missed the May 2 snowfall and is further ahead, but planting is delayed in the western half of the county. Slow planting progress extends south into Iowa.

University of Minnesota Extension educator Ryan Miller estimated a third of the corn was in the ground from Interstate 35 to Highway 52, ranging from zero to 100 percent planted for individual producers. Mower County producers are among those in the worst shape.

Kirk Phelps, Farm Service Agency county executive director in Mower County, said it's been wet in the county since 10 inches of snow fell on May 2. Farmers have had maybe two and a half decent days since, with one more kind of decent day.

He estimates that between 30 percent and 40 percent of the corn in the county is planted and maybe 2 percent of the soybeans. An area north of LeRoy, back into Adams and Rose Creek, is even further behind, he said, and alfalfa in that area was hit hard by winterkill.

It's hard to believe, but the area was still classified as in drought as little as six weeks ago, Phelps said.

Now, farmers can't get into the field because it's too wet. Plus, it's been cold, not counting May 14 when there was a record-setting high temperature.

Phelps said a lot of guys are saying 2013 is starting to look like 1993, the year summer never came.

Loss data being collected

The Farm Service Agency continues to collect loss data and suggests that producers call FSA if they are prevented from planting. He estimates a 70 percent loss on alfalfa in Mower County. The data will be turned in to the state office and may lead to a future disaster declaration.

Farmers whose conservation structures have been damaged by the excessive rainfall should report the damage, Phelps said. They may be able to use the Emergency Conservation Program for repairs.

In nearby Steele and Rice counties, Extension educator Mike Donnelly estimates less than 50 percent of the corn is planted between the two counties. The most acres have been planted in northwestern Steele County and southwestern Rice, areas that missed the brunt of the May 2 snowfall. Very little, if any, soybeans are planted in the two counties.

In Houston and Fillmore counties, two-thirds of the corn is in the ground, said Extension educator Jerrold Tesmer. Some producers have planted all their corn; others haven't started. Some soybeans are planed, but he's unsure how much.

Further west, the situation is quite different. A portion of western Minnesota still is classified in drought, according to the Drought Monitor released May 30. The drought categories range from abnormally dry to a relatively small area in severe drought.

Liz Stahl, an Extension educator based in Worthington, said most people in that area have all their corn in, but there are a lot of soybeans left to be planted.

Extension educator Dave Nicolai said west of the Twin Cities out toward Renville County, the corn and sugar beets are planted and 75 percent or more of the soybeans are in the ground. In the Stewart and Brownton areas, emerged crops were drowned out.

Greg Wheelock, owner of Crop Insurance Services, encouraged producers who may have prevented planting acres to notify their agent on June 1 that they may have a claim. Producers may continue to plant through June 25, but they lose 1 percent of their crop insurance coverage each day.

Wheelock outlined several options and answered several questions from producers. Most were still undecided on what option they would pursue and the weather plays a leading role.

Contact your agent

The main message was to be in contact with your crop insurance agent. Also, if corn is planted in the late planting period, acreage must be reported daily.

Smith said it was easy to tell how important the issue is to producers by the quiet in the room. It's the first time prevented planting has been this widespread in southeastern Minnesota, Smith said. Prevented planting claims have been minimal out of the Rochester office before, he said.

If a producer elects to take prevented planting, the coverage is based on the multi-peril coverage the producer elected in the spring. The coverage is unique to every producer, Wheelock said, and depends on several factors.

He gave one example where the APH for the unit was 200 for corn and the level of coverage was 85 percent. In this case, the producer received $576.30 per acre, 60 percent of purchased coverage per acre.

Wheelock stressed that farmers won't get rich collecting on prevented planting claims. In some cases, it will not cover the rent, he said. Farmers depend on crop insurance to get them through the lean years. It's the only thing farmers have to depend on in the case of a poor crop, Wheelock said.

Farmers in southern Minnesota have until June 10 to plant soybeans, with the late planting period extending from June 11 to July 5.

With the compressed time frame for planting, dairy and cattle producers are facing the tough decision of planting corn or harvesting hay, Tesmer said.

Another challenge is herbicide application, Stahl said. With the rush to get planting done, pre-emergence herbicides may not have been applied. Make sure to check labels on products if applying those products after the crop has emerged, she said.

With a shorter growing season, Extension recommends producers switch to 90- or 95-day hybrids. They have posted several resources online for making decisions regarding late planting.

Good genetic packages

T.J. Kartes, of Kartes Seeds of Blooming Prairie, says there are some good genetic packages in 95-day hybrids. He also has silage hybrids down to 84 or 85 days. Kartes, who sells Legacy Seeds, has been on the phone with growers for weeks now. They are pursuing shorter-season hybrids and asking questions about cover crops.

Cover crops may be planted on acres that are certified as prevent plant, but the cover crops can't be harvested or grazed until after Nov. 1. Consult your crop insurance agent with questions on your policy's cover crop provisions.

Kartes said there are cover crops that build nitrogen, crops that scavenge P and K, and crops that just hold the soil in place. Cover crops should be selected based upon what the producer wants to achieve from the crop, he said.

"There's no cookie cutter for cover crops," he said.