Floods Could Cost Indiana Farmers Nearly $800 Million in Crop Damage

June 23, 2008

Indiana’s agriculture director says June’s flooding likely caused the worst agriculture disaster in state history, damaging nearly a tenth of corn and soybean crops and costing farmers upward of $800 million.

“There’s probably no sector of our state that’s been hit harder than our farmers,” Indiana Agriculture Director Andy Miller said on June 19. “Our farmers in the affected counties are suffering significantly.”

Preliminary estimates show about 9 percent of the state’s corn and soybean crops were flooded, Miller said. Farmers are still trying to determine whether any of those crops can be saved. If those fields are a total loss, it could cost farmers more than $840 million, Miller said.

Farmers are also dealing with damage to their homes and machinery. Some fields are littered with debris or covered by silt, while others are missing topsoil or large chunks of earth after being eroded by floodwaters.

“When that soil leaves that field, it’s gone,” said Jane Hardisty of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Few livestock died in the floods, but farmers should be concerned about animal care as they start to recover, said Bret Marsh, the Indiana state veterinarian.

Farmers should make sure animals have clean drinking water and feed, and should look for unusual behavior or other symptoms of illness. Marsh said farmers should watch for signs of bacteria, such as Anthrax, that can live in the soil for many years and then infect livestock after being disturbed.

Many farmers cleaning up from the floods are wondering whether they can salvage any of their crops as commodity prices rise.

“They know that every bushel is worth a lot of money and they want to save that if they possibly can,” said Charles Hibberd, director of the Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service.

Crops that simply got wet may survive, although development may be set back, Hibberd said. Fields submerged in the floods will likely not make it, he said, or could be damaged by pathogens in the dirty water. Replanting may be an option for some farmers, but it’s unclear whether there is enough time left in the growing season to produce a crop, he said.

The state Department of Agriculture is planning three forums next week discussing available aid and services such as loans, grants and land conservation programs.

Agriculture officials urge farmers to contact them quickly to explore options for help. Thirty-seven counties are eligible for aid after being declared federal disaster areas.

Miller said many farmers are so focused on their crops that they may not be worried yet about personal property damage, which could lead to missed deadlines for aid applications.

“It’s vitally important that they reach out and understand that stuff now,” he said.

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