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Rising Bankruptcies, Possible 2020 Weather Woes Worry SD Farmers

Flooding across the Midwest in 2019 made this year's corn planting the longest delayed in U.S. history. (
Flooding across the Midwest in 2019 made this year's corn planting the longest delayed in U.S. history. (
December 13, 2019

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – With 2020 just around the corner, farmers across the Midwest hope Mother Nature and economic conditions will bring relief by spring.

The American Farm Bureau says South Dakota reported 13 farm bankruptcies in a 12-month period ending in September, compared with two in the previous 12-month period.

Angel Kasper, outreach director for Ag United for South Dakota, notes that 98% of the state's farms are family owned. She says when weather extremes kept many from planting crops this year, some gave up rather than wait for another season.

"South Dakota this year, especially with the weather, had 3.86 million unplanted acres of land, which is more than any other state,” she relates. “And some farms didn't get crops in at all."

In addition to weather problems, Kasper says the rise in bankruptcies can be traced to low commodity prices and the trade wars, including the tariffs on China.

Neighboring agricultural states also reported increases in farm bankruptcies: Nebraska had 37, Minnesota 31 and Iowa reported 24.

The Farm Bureau says overall, there were 24% more farm bankruptcies this year than last.

This year also has seen the wettest January-to-May period on record in the Midwest.

National Weather Service meteorologist Phil Schumacher says much of South Dakota is ending the year with conditions that could create more of the same in 2020.

"All we can say is right now is, there's a lot of moisture in the ground, the rivers are running high,” he states. It makes us a little more worried there could be flooding next year. But we have to wait and see how precipitation falls."

And Kasper adds that weather-related farm woes can directly impact consumers.

"The average age of farmers in the U.S. is 58 years old,” he points out. “Somebody has to take that place, and somebody has to produce those crops. So, with less farmers and less farms, food is going to become more expensive to produce."

Despite more bankruptcies, the U.S. Department of Agriculture expects net farm income to increase this year, due to insurance payouts, and also government payouts to individual farmers hurt by the trade war.

Roz Brown, Public News Service - SD