USDA secretary received letter from Hoosiers about tough planting season

Submitted photoThe discussion led by Sen. Todd Young (center of panelists) focused on the difficult planting season affecting Hoosier farmers and opportunities for assistance at the federal level.

U.S. Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.) met with dozens of agriculture stakeholders June 21 for a roundtable discussion hosted by the Indiana Soybean Alliance and Indiana Corn Growers Association.

Young announced he sent a letter (please see box) to U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue urging swift action to help mitigate the immediate and long-term effects of planting hardship in Indiana.

The senator previously spoke in Washington on planting hardship this season and the need for clarification from USDA. Later June 21, he met with Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch’s representatives and Indiana director of agriculture Bruce Kettler about efforts underway at the state level.

“Indiana farm country needs clarity in these uncertain times. I’m going to take the feedback from today’s meetings back to Washington to ensure our Hoosier farmers are equipped with the right tools to combat this crisis,” said Young.

Phil Ramsey, Shelbyville, a farmer and Indiana Soybean Alliance board member, said, “Hoosier corn and soybean farmers appreciate Senator Young taking the time to meet with Indiana agriculture leaders to discuss the significant ramifications of this year’s disastrous weather conditions. We need solutions to help farmers through what promises to be several difficult economic years. As a fundamental step, we urge swift action by Congress to adopt the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement. The farm economy relies on fair trade markets for the crops we grow.”

Indiana Corn Growers Association President Sarah Delbecq said, “Hoosier corn farmers are experiencing unprecedented weather conditions that have prevented a significant number of Indiana acres from being planted. These troubles combined with market insecurity and uncertainty are wreaking havoc on all levels of the farm economy. While we can’t expect Senator Young to change the weather, we appreciate his leadership in securing markets by finalizing trade deals and working with our federal agencies on assistance for Indiana counties that can’t get a good crop in the ground.”

Indiana Farm Bureau President Randy Kron said, “Our thanks to Senator Young for listening to all of the different issues related to the ongoing weather events our farmer members have faced this planting season. Due to the rains this spring, the negative economic ripple effects felt throughout the agricultural industry and rural communities will continue for several years.”

Letter from Hoosiers to Perdue

Dear Secretary Perdue,

We write to you today to express our deep concern with planting progress in Indiana, and to urge you to expeditiously finalize guidance related to the Additional Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief Act of 2019 recently passed by Congress and signed into law by President Trump.

Indiana is experiencing the worst planting progress levels for corn and soybeans in recorded history. According to data released by the National Agricultural Statistics Service, corn planting in Indiana was 31 percent planted for the week of June 2, and 67 percent planted for the week of June 9. Likewise, soybean planting is at 17 percent and 42 percent, respectively. These percentages are far behind national averages and planting progress data from 2018. Delays in planting were caused by six weeks of extreme prolonged rain, making maneuvering farm equipment impossible. The weather forecast for Indiana over the next two weeks also includes periods of heavy rain and scattered thunderstorms. As the crop insurance planting deadline passed on June 5 for corn, and the upcoming deadline for soybeans on June 20 approaches, farmers are facing a myriad of confusing decisions: planting remaining acres at a coverage loss, switching crops which will affect planned rotations, and filing for prevented planting coverage under crop insurance.

The recent disaster bill includes language that allows prevented planting payments under crop insurance to not exceed 90 percent and provides additional authority to compensate producers on the higher of the projected price or harvest price. As the USDA finalizes program eligibility and application guidance, we strongly encourage consideration of Indiana’s prolonged exposure to rains that have prevented farmers from planting and will inevitably result in a shortened growing season with decreased yields. We also encourage the USDA to consider using existing authorities to adjust prevented planting deadline dates, adjust the 1 percent per day penalty for coverage, or other avenues that will alleviate Hoosier farmers’ burden in dealing with detrimental effects from adverse weather.

The Indiana delegation remains united in strengthening our rural communities, which benefit our entire state. Indiana is a national leader in corn and soybean production, and we hope you will consider efforts to mitigate the immediate and long-term effects of planting hardship in Indiana.

In addition to Young, Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.) and Reps. Larry Bucshon, M.D. (R-IN-08), Pete Visclosky (D-IN-01), Jackie Walorski (R-IN-02), Susan Brooks (R-IN-05), André Carson (D-IN-07), Jim Banks (R-IN-03), James Baird (R-IN-04), and Greg Pence (R-IN-06) also signed the letter.