Doug Niemeir

Farm News - USDA/Farm Service Agency

Editor's Note: Doug Niemeir is the County Executive Director for the USDA/Farm Service Agency. Doug may be reached by emailing him at Douglas.Niemeir@ks.usda.gov.

2011 one for the record books

Thursday, December 29, 2011

This past year has been a trying one weather-wise --one for the ages, so to speak. It is one the young folks will remember for a lifetime and recount to their children and grandchildren many times. I recall hearing about 1954 on the farm many times from my parents and have recounted the long summer of 1980, myself, to family and friends a few times, recalling the hot and dry conditions of that year.

An unusually dry summer in 2011 -- complicated by day after day of higher than normal temperatures -- produced a summer season extraordinaire. At the USDA Service Center, we even tried our hand at frying an egg on the sidewalk one of those excessively hot 100-plus degree days. We really didn't get the egg as much fried as it was baked when we finished -- the birds ate it before morning, anyway.

The total rainfall for the year around the county ranged from 36.8 inches near Devon to 38.5 inches down Garland way, according to CoCoRahs reports. The total in Fort Scott averaged around 37.6 inches.

The 40-year annual average for Bourbon County is 44.14 inches, so we ended up just a few inches short of that amount. However, between 11 and 12 inches of that total fell in November and December -- normally two of the driest months -- providing some much-needed livestock water but too late to help this year's crops.

So with the adverse conditions affecting most all crops in 2011, what does the USDA offer in the way of disaster programs for farms and ranchers?

The program available at this point is the Supplemental Revenue Assistance Program (called SURE) that might still offer some assistance to producers. Several of the other programs for livestock feed, etc., have expired and are no longer available.

SURE has actually expired too (i.e. it will not cover 2012 crops) but was effective for 2010 and 2011, for which sign up is now available (for 2010 crops) or will be available next year at this time (for 2011 crops).

To be eligible for SURE, a farm must have: 1) at least a 10 percent production loss on a crop of economic significance; 2) a policy or plan of insurance under the Federal Crop Insurance Act or the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) for all economically significant crops; 3) been physically located in a county that was declared a primary disaster county or contiguous county by the agriculture secretary under a Secretarial Disaster Designation.

(Bourbon County is included as a contiguous county for 2010 and a declared county for 2011.)

Producers considered socially disadvantaged (generally minority producers), beginning farmers or ranchers (farming 10 years or fewer) or limited resource farmers may be eligible for SURE without a policy or plan of insurance or NAP coverage.

SURE is a revenue-based disaster program rather than a yield-loss based program for mechanically harvested crops. So, it covers wheat, corn, soybeans, hay, etc., without consideration for the grazing or livestock portions of an operation. Also, since it is a revenue-based comparison based on actual average prices, the marketing year for these crops must pass before the determination can be made whether or not a revenue loss has occurred. The current sign up for this program, then, is for the 2010 year. The sign up period has started and will end in June. The SURE sign up for 2011 crops will be a year from now.

To be eligible for SURE, producers must have suffered at least a 10 percent production loss on a crop of economic significance. In addition, producers must meet the risk management purchase requirement by obtaining a policy or plan of insurance, under the Federal Crop Insurance Act or NAP coverage, for all economically significant crops. We have received some initial applications so far and are in the process of evaluating those for possible eligibility. More information will be provided in this column over the next few weeks to keep producers informed of program provisions and possible benefits.

This will be the last "Farm News Column" for the year. Those of us at the USDA Service Center in Fort Scott would like to take this opportunity to thank all our customers for their patience and understanding though this past year.

Our goal is always to serve all the farmers and ranchers of Bourbon County. I expect, however, that it seems we sometimes "chase the cows after they get out" rather than simply "fixing the fence." Our intention is to "keep the fence fixed" even with the continually decreasing resources available for our agency's operations.

We will do our best throughout the year to make USDA programs available and wish all our farmers and ranchers the best as we all proceed into the New Year.

Considering 2011, the odds are in our favor, at least weather-wise, for a better year ahead. Our wish is that you and your family had a merry Christmas and enjoy a happy New Year as well.