Flooded South Dakota producers ask for extension to Prevented Planting rule
April 29, 2011
HURON, SD – A group of over a dozen farmers and ranchers affected by high water levels and flooded fields from Beadle County to Brown County (SD) along the James River met April 26 with Lynn Tjeerdsma, an agriculture advisor to South Dakota Sen. John Thune (R-SD), to discuss the impact flooding is having on their operations. Tjeerdsma listened to concerns and gathered information about what can be done to help the farmers affected. The meeting was held at the South Dakota Farmers Union (SDFU) State Office in Huron.
“We appreciate Lynn’s willingness to come and talk to these producers about the struggles they’re having with all of this water,” said SDFU President Doug Sombke. “They want to know that someone cares about their situation and can possibly do something to help.”
One of the main issues of concern the producers pointed to was a rule within the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Risk Management Agency (RMA) dealing with Prevented Planting provisions in federal crop insurance. The RMA rule says a producer must plant a crop on an acre of land once within the last three years to be eligible to receive Prevented Planting payments through their crop insurance if they’re unable to plant the crop this year. With continued wet weather over the past few years, many producers are looking at a second or third consecutive year of not being able to plant many acres of land. Some may not be eligible to collect insurance on land that was farmed in the past, but is too wet to plant now.
“Our land is not wet land in normal situations,” said Randy Knecht, a Brown County farmer. “The land we farm is good ground, and it’s simply under water. But to survive we need Prevented Planting payments to carry us through. If that three year window isn’t extended, a lot of guys might just go out of business.”
Another major issue perpetuating the flooding problems along the James River valley is the fact that the river doesn’t move water fast enough. The producers say too many dams, bridges and small culverts along the river from North Dakota to Nebraska slow the river down. That allows the water to back up into farm fields and destroys roads.
“I see that we have a short term problem and a long term problem,” Tjeerdsma told the producers. “In the short term you might be looking at Prevented Planting insurance payments going away because you’re hitting the three-year threshold. In the long term, the James River isn’t carrying the water out. We’ll try and work on both solutions, but in the political and budgetary environment we’re in right now, it’ll be difficult.”
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Many of the producers at the meeting said giving Prevented Planting extensions, or waivers, to individual producers most affected by flooding would have the greatest economic benefit in the short term. They also called for an exhaustive study on the James River to see what can be done to carry more water away from the area.
“If we don’t do something now, a lot of farmers will go out of business, it’s that simple,” said Sombke. “A majority of the businesses in the small towns of South Dakota are supported by our agricultural producers. If they go away, the small towns will follow.”
Farm Service Agency State Director Craig Schaunaman was also at the meeting. He said gave an example of the growing number of acres that were eligible to receive Prevented Planting last year as compared with years past.
“In Edmunds County in 2008 we had 545 acres, in the whole county, that were Prevented Planting eligible,” Schaunaman said. “In 2010, 145,000 acres were eligible. It’s unprecedented.”
Tjeerdsma thanked the producers for their input, and said he will relay the information to Sen. Thune and they will work on finding solutions to help the farmers.
“This round-table type discussion is very beneficial, very helpful,” Tjeerdsma said. “It gives me a chance to have an open dialogue with the folks that are on the ground, the people that are really affected by this. It give me a better understanding of the gravity of the situation, and we’ll do what we can to help.”