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NEWS-SENTINEL EDITORIAL: Indiana farmers offered much-needed assistance from USDA

If you don’t believe Indiana farmers have had a disastrous year, here’s what the editor of the Iowa-based Pro Farmer grain marketing newsletter said about the 2019 Indiana corn and soybean crops after leading a team of 60 field scouts across the state to get a late-season assessment following this spring’s excessive rain and flooding:

“In terms of maturity, I would say it’s right down there at the bottom of the worst ever,” Brian Grete said. “One of my most mature corn samples I pulled (from the field) would have been the least mature in a normal year,” he said in an Aug. 27 “Inside Indiana Business” article.

The good news is that the U.S. Department of Agriculture this month declared 74 Indiana counties as primary natural disaster areas. The other 18 are considered contiguous disaster counties, which means farmers in those areas are eligible for the same government assistance.

Those farmers can join News-Sentinel.com in thanking Gov. Eric Holcomb, who sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue in July to ask for assistance. And we can thank Perdue for his response this month.

“I am grateful that Secretary Perdue and his team recognized the hardships Hoosier farmers experienced this planting season,” Gov. Holcomb said.

Producers who suffered losses due to excessive rain and flooding since March 1 may be eligible for Farm Service Agency emergency loans the USDA news release says can be used “to meet various recovery needs including the replacement of essential items such as equipment or livestock, reorganization of a farming operation or the refinance of certain debts.”

“Farmers, who have been doing this their entire lives, acknowledge this has been one of the toughest seasons on record, and we’re not in the clear yet,” Bruce Kettler, director of the Indiana State Department of Agriculture, said in the IIB story. “While we know this isn’t a cure-all solution, this assistance is welcome news and will help those severely impacted.”

Pro Farmer, which is a subsidiary of Farm Journal magazine, has sent teams of agronomists, farmers, grain marketers and buyers through seven Midwest states for the past 27 years to estimate the number of bushels of corn and soybeans farmers can expect to harvest in the fall, according to IIB.

The team’s recent report showed 32 percent of corn in Indiana was rated as good-to-excellent, 41 percent fair and 27 percent poor to very poor. That tied Ohio for the worst corn crop among the top 18 corn-growing states in the U.S. Soybeans, they said, are not much better.

Pro Farmer analysts say the 2019 statewide average corn yield will be just over 161 bushels an acre, 12 percent lower than the 182 projected in the 2018 newsletter. Soybean projections have not been estimated yet because the crop still has time to grow.

An FSA news release on Sept. 10 says there is a variety of additional programs to help farmers recover from the impacts of this disaster as well. Those that do not require a disaster declaration include: Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees and Farm-Raised Fish Program; Emergency Conservation Program; Livestock Forage Disaster Program; Livestock Indemnity Program; Operating and Farm Ownership Loans; and the Tree Assistance Program.

Farmers may contact their local USDA service center for further information on eligibility requirements and application procedures for these and other programs or go online at farmers.gov/recover.

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