Flooding is impacting Minnesota farmers, delaying planting. But help may be on the way.

Flooding continues to impact Minnesota farmers

Flooding continues to impact Minnesota farmers

Pete Samuelson’s farm roots run deep.

His family history is tied to their land in Southwest Minnesota.

“My son is the fifth generation,” he says. “So, 1899 was when it started.”

But the soggy spring has not been kind to their 1000-acre farm in Cottonwood County.

Several fields have ponding water — much too deep for planting.

“Nice duck pond,” Samuelson quips, trying to keep a sense of humor, even as heavy rains have flooded his fields, delaying the planting of corn and soybeans another week.

“I think, ‘How long until I get back in there?’” he says. “So, I can get back to it and get our fields planted.”

A drive through Cottonwood County, with its flooded fields and basements, shows the problem.

The National Weather Service says up to nine inches of rain have fallen in the area since mid-April.

That’s on top of the snowmelt.

“In my lifetime, this is by far probably the worst rainstorm that I’ve ever encountered,” declares Dale McMullen, whose family has farmed in the county since 1956.

He shared with 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS drone images of the high waters that he recorded this past Saturday.

“It’s very eye-opening when you get up in the air, how much water there was in the area,” McMullen says. “It’s definitely one we won’t forget, that’s for sure.”

He says the water has receded, but not enough.

“The equipment wasn’t originally designed to handle mud and tough, sticky conditions like what we’ll potentially have to deal with,” McMullen explains. “It makes the spring last a lot longer.”

Both men say planting and harvesting will have to be pushed back.

Samuelson says his crop yields could be cut by up to 20%.

“Prices are going down, our input costs are up, so our margins are getting increasingly tight,” he notes. “So, you have little hiccups like this, and it really puts a lot of extra stress on a farmer.”

Dave Nicolai, an extension educator at the University of Minnesota, says these rain delays can trigger financial problems for growers.  

“They have to be timely,” he says. “They’re probably doubling up on their input costs. There’s more fuel needed. You’re making extra trips across the field. So, the amount of grain they’d normally expect in terms of yield and income is going to be less.”

But help may be on the way.

The USDA Farm Service Agency, or FSA for short, says it’s surveying farm flood zones in Minnesota to see if some counties should be declared disaster areas.  

“For that declaration, we do need to hit a threshold of 30% crop loss in one crop in the county, so that’s something our staff is actively watching,” says Whitney Place, the State Executive Director for the Minnesota FSA.

Place says the declaration, with federal approval, could activate USDA emergency loans, and begin the process for farmers to apply for crop insurance.

“As farmers see their crops planted, they come into our office and certify their acres,” she says. “That shows how much they planted for the year and use that number to apply for their crop insurance.”

Place says the crop insurance deadline for this year is July 17.

Nicolai, meantime, says the best weather for Minnesota farmers right now would be some sunshine, with moderate temperatures.

Too much heat, he says, could damage freshly planted seedlings.

McMullen says as far as loans and crop insurance are concerned, he wants to see what the coming days and weeks will bring.

“We prefer to make it on our own and produce a beautiful crop,” he says. “But if worse came to worse, and they rolled out a program, I think a lot of farmers would probably take that if they needed it.”

Samuelson says he hopes the delay won’t push harvest time too late in the fall.

For now, he explains, the first priority is for the water to recede.

“You got to be patient and let the water go down, and let the sun come up and dry things up before we go again,” Samuelson says. “And sometimes, that’s the hardest part of being patient, you want to do something — you’re all ready to go, and you can’t.”

You can find out more about FSA programs in Minnesota here.