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Hopes fade for flood-hit Midwest farmers
KANSAS CITY, Missouri |
KANSAS CITY, Missouri (Reuters) - As a light sprinkle of rain fell across his 3,000 acres of corn and soybean fields early on Thursday, Missouri farmer Jim Collins knew it was too late.
Too late to replant flooded fields, and too late to hope for better weather.
"It's a bad situation. You can't do anything," said the 51-year-old Collins, whose farm sits about 50 miles west of the Mississippi River. "We'll just have to try to collect on our insurance."
Flooding up and down the Mississippi and other waterways, deemed the worst in 15 years, has either drowned or damaged millions of acres of corn and soybeans throughout several states in the U.S. Midwest this month, leaving farmers like Collins with dwindling options.
Some farmers worked earlier this week to replant still-saturated fields with new seed, hoping still to grow a good crop and capitalize on record-high grain prices.
Futures prices for July 2009 corn at the Chicago Board of Trade soared to a record high for the corn market at $8.22 per bushel on Thursday before settling at $8.15-3/4. New-crop CBOT November soybean futures ended at $15.61-1/2 a bushel, up 36-1/2 cents.
But midweek rains washed away those hopes for some. With crop insurance deadlines for planting mostly come and gone or going quickly, many farmers said the outlook for this season's new crop was substantially diminished.
"It is affecting everybody," said Gorin, Missouri, farmer Kenny McNamar, who struggled through muddied fields this week to plant corn and soybeans but fears that what he planted may have already been washed away.
"I've been farming for 40 years now and this is probably the worst I've seen as trying to get a crop in the ground," said McNamar. "It's really going to put a hurt on a lot of people."
The National Agricultural Statistics Service is surveying farmers in Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Minnesota and Wisconsin to try to gauge just how much the heavy rains and flooding have eaten into corn, soybean and sorghum production potential. The information will be incorporated into a report due out on Monday.
The American Farm Bureau Federation said this week that in top U.S. corn-grower Iowa, corn yields could be down 16 percent this year. The federation estimated that 1.5 million to 2 million acres of corn and soybeans in Iowa that farmers intended to plant likely remain fallow.
The federation pegged the losses at $4 billion to Iowa's crops, with a $900 million loss in Missouri, a $1.3 billion loss in Illinois, and crop losses of $500 million each in Indiana and Nebraska.
Iowa State University agronomist Roger Elmore said those fields where farmers successfully replanted crops would be particularly vulnerable to a variety of problems, including fall frost damage.
"With the replant we know there will be a big yield hit," Elmore said.
He pointed out that many fields that have not been flooded are in poor shape, yellowed, with stands a foot or more shorter than normal.
Still, Elmore said with optimal weather conditions, production potential could bounce back.
"We're like in the second inning of a ball game here and there is a lot that can happen between now and harvest," said Elmore. "The rest of the story has yet to be written."
(Reporting by Carey Gillam, editing by Matthew Lewis)
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