County official asks USDA to fix double-cropping insurance problem for drought stricken farmers
The issue of crop insurance and emergency crops that will be needed to feed Wisconsin's livestock after a historic year of drought is one that is important to many farmers in the state.
Some officials, including Dane County Executive Joe Parisi, are pushing for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to allow farmers who plant emergency forage crops to feed their livestock to be able to insure the crop they plant on those fields next spring.
In a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Parisi said that the effects of this historic drought "know no bounds" and will cause hardships to the state's livestock producers.
"It is expected that excessively dry conditions for the 2012 crop year will create a 50-70 percent yield loss on crops used for livestock feed," Parisi wrote to Vilsack on Aug. 17. "The result is that two to three times more acreage will be required to meet corn silage needs."
Parisi told the Secretary that the drought and the losses it brought will require livestock producers to harvest fields typically used for grain in order to meet forage needs.
"We have found early indications of corn smut which could further reduce the availability of forage for livestock," Parisi said.
He was part of a meeting held with a USDA deputy undersecretary recently on Brian and Yogi Brown's farm near Belleville where the effect of smut on non-irrigated corn was obvious. It called into question the farm's ability to use that corn to feed their high-producing Holstein dairy cattle.
Because producers will harvest their corn for silage earlier than normal this year that will also leave many fields vulnerable to increased erosion and nutrient loss over the winter and next spring, Parisi's letter added.
As farmers plant cover crops now that will protect the soil and can be harvested as forage this fall or next spring to feed livestock they are running afoul of crop insurance requirements. "If fields are harvested next spring, crop insurance will not, and FSA program eligibility may not, be available to cover the subsequent crop as part of the producers' normal crop rotation," Parisi said.
"I respectfully request that producers in Dane and Wisconsin's other counties who have received federal disaster declaration be granted a temporary waiver to allow grain crops, such as corn and soybeans planted following a spring harvest of forage cover crop, to be eligible for crop insurance.
"In addition, I ask that other USDA programs be made available for those planting an early forage harvest for livestock."
At the meeting at the Brown's Belleville farm, Dane County farmer Jerry Bradley brought up this issue to Deputy Undersecretary Rebecca Blue and asked her to take these concerns back to the USDA and her boss.
Bradley said that farmers in southern states had abused their ability to double-crop and caused this situation for more northerly farmers who typically don't worry too much about double cropping because of the shorter growing season.
He's hoping something can be worked out for farmers who need extra feed for their cattle in light of the shortages the drought will undoubtedly bring at harvest time without their having to forfeit crop insurance protections for next year's corn or soybean crops.