Farmers across the state still reeling from this summer's excessive rainfall may be eligible for funding from the government to help cover costs associated with crop damage and yield losses.

A new report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) claims that this fall's harvest will fall well below last year's record numbers and has issued an emergency declaration for 53 Indiana counties to help devastated farmers.

According to the USDA, Indiana corn yields are expected to decline by 20 percent from last year's 1.08 billion bushels on 188 bushels per acre.

The USDA further estimates that statewide soybean yields will drop 9.3 percent from last year's crop of 307.4 million bushels on 56 per acre.

Last week, a panel of experts met in the State Capitol to discuss the USDA's August Crop Production Report, the federal government's first projection of how much corn and soybean are harvestable in Indiana and the U.S.

"The bottom line is yields will be off and we'll see a lot of variability across the state," Jay Akridge, dean of the Purdue College of Agriculture, told the panel.

The USDA designated 53 Indiana counties, including Wabash County, as disaster areas, thus making farmers in affected areas eligible for low-interest loans to cover lost revenue from a poor harvest.

Eric Armentrout, Wabash County's executive director with the Farm Service Agency (FSA), told the Plain Dealer last week that County soybean and corn yields were expected to fall at least 30 percent below average, according to his July report to the State.

Armentrout estimates that more than 3,000 acres of soybean crop and nearly 1,500 acres of corn crop were not planted this year due to excessive rainfall.

Unprecedented rainfall for six weeks in June and July drowned thousands of small crops across the state just weeks after being planted, severely limiting prospects for a good harvest.

Damage from these storms varies by location and even within Wabash County some farmers will see negligible yields while others should expect an average harvest.

Farmers in the southern portion of the county, including Lagro and LaFontaine, were hit the hardest by this summer's rainfall in part because of the area's heavier soils, according to Armentrout. Many of these farmers did not plant at all.

"If I'm one of those (farmers) with crop insurance, that's going to help," Armentrout said. But for those without crop insurance who were unable to plant or who lost crops to the flooding, low-interest loans through the FSA are available.

These loans, Armentrout said, can help farmers offset living costs in years with significant yield losses.

"If we can still get some rain this fall soy will go up and will get closer to average," Armentrout said. Corn yields, however, don't look so positive.

"What we have (planted) is what we're going to get," he said.

Strong harvests in 2012-2014 should help farmers withstand this fall's lost yields, Armentrout added, but "if we have another year like this it's going to be hard."

The USDA last week estimated 25 percent of Indiana's corn crop and 24 percent of soybean crop is in poor or very poor condition.

Wabash County is estimated to be one of the hardest hit regions in the state, but while local yields are expected to drop off, farmers across the U.S. are expected to fare better, Armentrout said. Iowa, Minnesota, the Dakotas and Nebraska are expecting well-above average yields this fall, offsetting losses in Indiana, Illinois, Missouri and Ohio.

This year's national corn harvest is expected to be the third-largest on record, with a projected harvest of 13.7 billion bushels of corn and an average of 168.8 bushels per acre. Last year, corn producers saw the largest national yield on record with 14.2 billion bushels. Soybean yields for 2015 are expected to hit 3.92 billion bushels.

Farmers expecting poor yields can contact the FSA for low-interest loans. Livestock and crop producers who experienced damaged fields due to this summer's floods are also eligible for grants from FSA to cover the expense of lost pastures.

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