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Published May 13, 2013, 09:24 AM

RRV farm flooding becomes nonevent

Despite near-record yields through much of the state, 2012 was considered abnormally dry and wasn’t counted as a planted year.

By: Mikkel Pates, Agweek

FARGO, N.D. — Farm field flooding from rising rivers and lakes in the northern Red River Valley and region have dissipated as quickly as National Weather Service projections declined in early May.

Kelly Erickson of Hallock, Minn., says the flooding turned into “kind of a nonevent,” from what he’d expected. The crest on the river at Drayton, N.D., came on May 7, and he expected it to persist for a few days.

“We’ve lost some roads and some access, but in regards to what the flooding has been in the past, it wasn’t anything like we were told it was supposed to be,” says Erickson, who is the president of the American Sugarbeet Growers Association.

Erickson had expected serious planting delays on up to 1,500 acres, but now doesn’t expect to lose any whole fields. “We’re going to have problems on maybe 500 acres,” he says. He says farmers were driving across fields on May 8 and he expects most in the area will start planting by May 13.

“Everything at this end of the Red River Valley will start popping on Monday (May 13) if we don’t get rains,” Erickson says. He expected to be on “flood ground” by about May 21.

Similarly, farmers in the Devils Lake, N.D., area were more optimistic than they’d expected because of revised lake levels for Devils Lake.

Dan Webster, also interviewed in mid-April by Agweek, said he wasn’t yet in the fields on May 8 in the Penn, N.D., area.

“It’s not going to be as bad as we’d thought,” Webster says. His farm has lost a total of 5,000 acres to the lake in the past decade and — cheered by declining water in 2012 — he’d hoped to gain back 1,000 acres, and had worked to clear trees and other debris that had floated into farmland and now were exposed. Now, he thinks he could get back 500 acres this year, “if the lake doesn’t come up a bunch more.”

Farmers were planting some well-drained, higher fields on May 8, but no wheels were turning in the Penn, N.D., area, he says. “Nothing’s ‘fit’ around here,” he says. “If it doesn’t rain, we should be able to find something in a week.”

Webster says he was disappointed by a recent confirmation of a ruling by the federal Risk Management Agency to disallow prevented planting crop insurance based on a “one-in-four” rule. The RMA has said the ability to plant a crop in one of the previous four years only comes into play if other conditions are met and if the planted year wasn’t “abnormally dry.” Despite near-record yields through much of the state, 2012 was considered abnormally dry and wasn’t counted as a planted year.

“If they’re going to have a meeting about prevent-plant, I’d think they’d have it up here where the prevent-plant is,” Webster says.