Iowa Farm Bureau leaders are calling on members of Congress to do several things to help farmers who've been hit by severe weather problems and flooding this summer. At the top of Farm Bureau's request list is for Congress to move up the Conservation Reserve Program hay-cutting allowance to assist Midwest livestock producers in the wake of the devastating flood.
The CRP lands were recently opened up for hay cutting by USDA, but access to the land is being held until August because of concern over wild bird nesting. In other words, farmers can't hay or graze the CRP acres until August 1.
"Unfortunately, many of those nests were washed away with high water two weeks ago," says Iowa Farm Bureau Federation President Craig Lang. "Our livestock farmers can't hold out until August to feed their animals." Lang says Farm Bureau sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer asking him to immediately release CRP acres for haying and grazing.
Soaring grain prices hit livestock farmers
The Flood of 2008 is expected to have many long- and short-term effects. At this point, Iowa's threatened grain crops have already impacted the price of corn and soybeans, which livestock farmers feed to their animals.
"Before the floods, corn was trading at $6 due to higher energy costs already, but now, it is more than $1.50 higher and may go higher still before this crop is harvested in the fall," says IFBF economist, Dave Miller. "We're currently looking at a $3 billion crop loss and an additional half billion in livestock feed cost losses.
Farmers are replanted many of the flooded fields and areas within fields, but those late planted crops were planted in late June and they are sure to be low yielding. Some livestock farmers may have to liquidate their hogs and cattle because they can't pay the feed costs - which aren't covered by insurance. "We feed 15 million hogs in Iowa and those farmers are losing anywhere from $20 to $40 a head right now; it's a moving target. Cattle farmers are facing an additional $120 per head of feed cost increase," says Miller.
Another crucial issue is farm access to farm fields and rural towns, because the governor's office estimates that 1,500 miles of roads have been damaged by high water. Access has been difficult as the cleanup gets under way.
As a result, Farm Bureau is calling on Iowa Gov. Chet Culver to suspend weight limits on Iowa highways so farmers can move up to 90,000 pounds in grain, feed or flood debris. In addition, Farm Bureau sent a plea to the Army Corps of Engineers to carefully manage the outflow of the state's reservoirs so the potential for further flooding can be minimized.
"What we do know is that Iowa farmers will find a way to continue to feed and fuel a growing world. Throughout history, we have come through all kinds of weather and market challenges and we'll do the same this time," says Lang.
For more information on the Floods of 2008 and the impact to Iowa agriculture, visit www.iowafarmbureau.com/flood08.