Iowa doesn't have funds for drought-stricken farmers

COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa (AP) -- The state does not have the financial resources to offer assistance to farmers suffering from serious crop losses from drought, Iowa's agriculture secretary said.

"We're rather limited in what we can do," said Patty Judge. "We have state disaster funds that come in and take care of catastrophic disasters, but I'm not certain that this crop failure is going to fit under the state's guidelines for that money."

Judge toured several farms in southwest Iowa on Thursday.

She said the region has been the hardest-hit in the state by dry conditions.

"It's a very odd circumstance," she said. "This part of the state has really taken it on the chin, while the northeast part of the state is just like a garden."


Judge said a farmer in Waverly in northeast Iowa said he has the best crop he's ever seen this year, while a Hamburg farm in southwest Iowa has been devastated by the dry conditions.

It appears that most farmers in southwest Iowa will see at least some loss in yields during harvest time, said Clarke McGrath, an Iowa State University crop specialist based near Lewis. The forecast is especially bleak for those who grow corn in the southernmost counties.

"Down in that corner, some of the crop was totally lost. Many farmers down there have decided scrap their fields for forage," McGrath said.

Yields of 60 to 85 percent of normal will be harvested in the Pottawattamie County area.

Futher rainfall will not provide much help for corn crops, but rain now could help soybean fields.

"They've made pretty good use of what we've had recently, but there still hasn't been enough moisture to carry them through the season," McGrath said.

Rural Hamburg farmer Rod Finnell said he anticipates huge losses.

"There's no question that Fremont County is the driest section of the state. Everybody is in the same boat down here," Finnell said. "There's a lot of folks out here considering what their options are."


He said some might get out of farming.

"They don't want to put themselves in a backwards situation. Everybody wants to do the best for their families," he said.

Finnell said the best he can do is watch the bottom line closely and make sure his crop insurance is in place.

Collecting that insurance to cover this year's cost of production is probably the best many farmers can hope for, Judge said.

"Where were really going to look is trying to get this region designated as a disaster area by the federal government," she said.

On Wednesday, Gov. Tom Vilsack asked state and federal agencies to determine the extent of crop damage in 46 Iowa counties to help prepare an application for federal drought assistance.

A State Emergency Board meeting will be scheduled for the week of Sept. 9 to review the damage reports.

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