Some Wabash Valley farmers continue to suffer crop losses this year because of heavy rainfall the area received in late spring. 

Even under the summer heat, some farm fields in Vigo County — especially those located close to the Wabash River — were still flooded on Friday.

One farm owner, Ramona Clark, who lives on Bowen Drive in southern Vigo County, said standing water on part of her 75 acres caused her to lose some soybeans and corn. 

“But I don’t know how much,” she said, because she hasn’t been able to assess the damage, she said. Now, she is worried that the heat — and no rain — will produce further damage. 

But another farm owner in the area, Fred Wilson, has a good idea of how much of his crops have been lost to rain and flooding this year. Even though his son and namesake has now taken over farming their land — covering over 2,000 acres including land near the Wabash River — he estimates that the family farm has lost over 60 percent of crops to flooding. Lower yields are also expected, although, exact figures will not be determined until fall.  

“This is not a good year,” he added. 

Wilson said his family settled in the area in 1816 and over the years, it has farmed near the river a lot, “so we’re kind of used to flooding. ... But this has probably been the longest that the water stayed up in the spring that I can remember,” he said during an interview at his home in southern Vigo County. 

He still considers his farm “fortunate” because his son planted most of the crops early, he said. The crops planted early seem to be doing well, while those planted later are “struggling,” he said.  

According to the National Agricultural Statistics Service, precipitation in Terre Haute was 14.9 inches between April 1 and June 28.

In an attempt to help the situation, Gov. Mike Pence and Sen. Joe Donnelly are asking the U.S. agriculture secretary to declare 53 of Indiana’s 92 counties disaster areas because of crop damage and losses caused by flooding and excessive rain. Vigo, Clay, Greene and Sullivan and counties were among the 53 counties affected. 

Pence wrote in a letter to Secretary Thomas Vilsack that unprecedented heavy rainfall since May 1 has had a significant impact on the yield of Indiana crops, saying federal emergency loan assistance is “prudent and warranted” for the ongoing problem.

“Recent and unprecedented heavy rainfall across our state has had a significant impact on the yield of Indiana crops and our Hoosier farmers,” the Republican governor wrote.

The National Weather Service reports Indianapolis broke a 140-year-old precipitation record in July, making it the city’s rainiest month on record. The city received 1.25 inches of rain on Sunday night that pushed the city to 13.13 inches of rainfall for July, breaking the previous all-time monthly precipitation record of 13.12 inches that fell in July 1875.

Rains in June set a statewide rainfall record for that month with a state average 8.99 inches. The previous record was 8.13 inches in June 1958.

Pence says in 50 counties, reported crop damage and losses have met or exceeded 30 percent of a crop, and three counties have experienced a significant number of damages and losses to multiple crops. Under a disaster designation, low-interest emergency loans would be made available to all producers suffering losses in that county, as well as in counties contiguous to a disaster-designated county.

Donnelly, a Democrat who serves on the Senate Agriculture Committee, wrote a letter in support of Pence’s request.

“The extreme levels of rain have caused irreparable damage to planted fields and rendered others unplantable throughout the state,” he wrote. “Thousands of farmers in Indiana are going to experience significant financial losses this year and this will be a particularly difficult time for young and limited resource farmers.”

Chris Hurt, a Purdue University agricultural economist, estimates corn and soybean farmers have sustained $500 million in crop losses this year.

In Vigo and surrounding counties, there have been “extremely variable crop conditions” this year for the local farmers, said Jim Luzar of Purdue Extension-Vigo County. For example, some corn may be in excellent condition while other fields may just be in good condition. “Field by field, there are lots [more] variability this year than in previous years,” he said. But this area of the state is still doing much better than other parts of the state, he said.

One of the farms located on higher clay is owned by Terry Hayhurst, who has about 1,500 acres of corn and soybeans in Vigo County. “We were blessed that we don’t have really a lot of damage,” he said. In addition to the farm being on higher ground, he also planted the crops as early as May. Right now, he hasn’t lost crop but the “yield is hard to judge” until harvest time. 

In August, Luzar said there will be a U.S. Department of Agriculture crop report that will show the first estimates of the size of the crop from this season. “Right now, the estimate for corn is 167 bushels per acre. If that estimate varies, that will impact the corn price,” he said. 

“Right now, we’re seeing corn prices drifting sideways to slightly lower because there’s a lot of debate about the crop in the western area of corn production ...” versus losses in the east, he said. 

He continued: “There’s still a lot of vulnerability to price which will further compound the fact that if a farm had a lot of water damage from the heavy rains in June, they are not going to potentially see a compensation in price because nationally the price is under $3.60 for fall and we were looking at around a $4 price back at planting time.”

“That’s just another example of a bad crop in a relatively good crop year [nationally] is difficult because that hurts revenue,” he said. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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