Aug 21, 2019Yield, revenue may trigger disaster assistance, insurance claims
This spring’s constant rain events forced growers to make tough choices. With limited planting windows, each farm had to make a set of choices about what to plant, and on every farm different decisions were made. Nearly everyone cut back, abandoning a planting of one thing or another. That could have been one crop in one window (e.g., mid-season broccoli), or one entire crop type (e.g., all red beets). There are not any glaring region-wide planting gaps, but a wide range of crops are late as planting activities and field preparation competed for this spring’s limited time.
Some crop yields may end up being more impacted by this wet spring than others. Field-planted pepper plants that went in the ground stressed may not produce well. Pumpkins that were planted right to the edge of adequate maturity time may not yield within the handful of weekends to sell that product. I have seen small and stressed hard squash plants too, which may result in earlier fruits, smaller fruits and fewer fruits.
In July, sweet corn experienced heavier than normal caterpillar pressure from the lack of surrounding field corn acreage to soak up some of the moths looking for egglaying sites. There were up to 90% infested ears in some plantings, which could be tough to market. Some growers are looking at a potential three-week gap in high-yielding sweet corn sales because of corn earworm infestations. Other vegetables could also be impacted by corn earworm caterpillars as alternative hosts such as field corn plantings catch up.
Potato growers may face tough vine-kill and harvest decisions due to delayed plantings. Their choices will be to kill vines and harvest around when they normally would (relative to other years) with potentially lower yields, or to kill vines and harvest later (relative to planting date this year) to try and maximizing yield. By waiting too long, grower will run the risk of low temperature bruising, freeze damage and the cost of sorting more thoroughly for tuber quality.
At this point, diseases have not been as serious in a broad statewide sense as they have been in other years. However, a complex of soil diseases was probably also at play with some early plantings that had wet feet. What most crops have in common is a compromised root system from a high water table this spring and poor soil conditions at planting. This could result in low and inconsistent yields from compaction and more sensitivity to heat, weed control and drought stress during the main season unless irrigation is provided in a timely fashion. In addition, there could be longer-term impacts from soil compaction.
There are insurance options for vegetable growers, which can potentially kick in with delayed planting, prevented planting and reduced revenues.
How Whole Farm Revenue Protection (WFRP) may work for Michigan vegetables in 2019
Since many growers are missing plantings, there will likely be supply gaps at an individual level and a loss of revenue from those products coming off the farm. The loss of early season harvests and resulting prices on those crops, as well as the usual concentrated ripening of many vegetable crops in July and August, could suppress prices. However, the overall scarcity from a combination of many growers missing various plantings and other stressors could buoy prices. All these potential revenues play against each other into the final loss adjustment to determine eligibility for a pay out this year.
How Actual Production History (APH) insurance may work for Michigan vegetables in 2019
The most impacted APH-eligible vegetables are cabbage, green peas, machine-harvested pickling cucumbers, processing beans and processing tomatoes because of delays getting them in the ground and from excess moisture after planting. This program gives different crops different coverage. Green peas, onions, potatoes and processing beans are eligible for late plant or prevented plant coverage in some APH plans. Replant coverage is available for cabbage, machine-harvested pickling cucumbers, onions and processing tomatoes, but those opportunities have passed by the time of this writing. The delayed planting for full-season crops may suppress yields such that there may be a case for a claim based on yield loss.
How Non-Insured Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) may work for Michigan vegetables in 2019
NAP covers prevented planting when unplanted acres are greater than 35% of intended acreage or covers loss of yield when loss is greater than 50% of a crop’s APH yield per acre when a producer selects basic level coverage. Higher levels of buy-up coverage are available up to 65%, which would require a 35% loss before a producer may be eligible for payment on a claim. I have already spoken with growers who have filed claims for prevented planting of heading Brassicas and sweet corn, destroyed plantings of beans and peas from persistent rain, and yield loss from uneven stands and stressed plants such as bolting biennial crops like heading Brassicas and many root crops.
Note, if you are participating in both NAP and WFRP, you can only collect from one of these programs in a given crop year. Consult your local USDA office for further information.
Michigan farmers are facing difficult planting and farm management decisions after weeks of unrelenting rainfall. MSU Extension has educational resources and programs to help farmers as they deal with delayed planting seasons.
Strawberry harvests can be impacted by heavy rains as fruit develops. Photo: Paul Bublitz