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IA Farmers Opt for Federal Assistance to Weather Drought


Friday, October 21, 2022   

New data from the U.S. Drought Monitor shows all of Iowa's 99 counties are abnormally dry, with a handful experiencing extreme drought conditions. A dozen counties have been declared disaster areas.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has responded by making more than $800 million available for struggling farmers.

There never seems to be the perfect amount of rain for Midwest farmers, but this year's unpredictability of rainfall has added a new wrinkle to an already challenging profession.

Allen Berte, who farms about 700 acres in Kossuth County, said in all his years of farming, he's never had a year where one portion of his farm does well while another is either bone dry or completely underwater.

"On my one farm, that's kind of heavy ground, for some reason I had the worst crops I've ever had," he said. "Some of my farms did OK."

Berte, who farms corn and soybeans, said most of the cattle farmers he knows in Iowa have given up, simply because of the lack of moisture. Even with the possibility of federal assistance and careful planning, Berte acknowledged that his success or failure is largely up to Mother Nature.

Leah Ten Napel, a field agronomist with the Iowa State University Extension Service, said while the lack of rain gets most of the attention, every aspect of farming is affected by the drought, including the major economic decisions farmers have to make. And that goes for crop farmers and livestock producers alike who need to grow food for their cattle.

"It's a big decision on whether you're going to make the investment of fertilizing that pasture this year," she said. "If we don't get any rain and it doesn't get incorporated, is that money being thrown away?"

The USDA has allocated more than $3 billion for distressed farm-loan borrowers, with the goal of keeping farmers in their fields. They have to meet certain criteria to qualify for federal aid. The deadline to apply for federal aid is April 2023.

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