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Published July 15, 2013, 04:48 PM

Prevented plant acres in ND total more than 4 million

A map released July 15 by the North Dakota state office of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Farm Service Agency shows the actual prevented plant acreage in the state is more than double the original estimate.

By: Mikkel Pates, Agweek

FARGO, N.D. — North Dakota has an estimated 4.4 million prevented plant acres in 2013, a figure that is more than double an earlier guess by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency, and the second-highest total since prevented plant insurance has been offered.

The high figure (roughly 20 percent of the state's total 22 million cropped acres) is a result of late-spring storms and rains throughout the state. Heavy winter snows, flooding along many rivers and excessive rains combined to keep many producers from planting, says Aaron Krauter, FSA state director in North Dakota. He says the latest estimate came at the request of U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D.

Final figures won’t be known until after harvest in November and December.

“But this should tell the story that production agriculture is still risky,” Krauter says, noting that last year, only 189,000 acres were prevent planted. “It can be good one year, and the next year it’s not good. And it’s very geographical from one corner of the state to another. If farming was so great, everybody should be doing it.”

Krauter says the record amount of prevented plant acres in the state was 5.6 million in 2011. That was followed by a 162,000-acre year in 2012, a nearly ideal year for most farmers in the state. Other big totals were 2010, 1.7 million acres; 2009, 2 million acres; 2001, 2.1 million acres; and 1999, 3.9 million acres.

The top six counties in the state this year for prevented plant acres and percentages of total cropland acres are: Ward, 386,000 (43 percent); Bottineau, 339,275 (40 percent); Renville, 309,797 (63 percent); Cavalier, 284,469 (34 percent); Towner, 230,000 (40 percent); and McHenry, 211,000 (30 percent).

Cropland acres include all agricultural land that is planted to an annual crop, land that is capable of being cropped and land enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program, Krauter says.

Prevented plant acreage in the 2008 crop year was 180,265, the lowest since the 1995 adoption of prevented plant coverage by the Federal Crop Insurance Corp.

Krauter says that in 2011, North Dakota State University Extension Service agricultural economist Dwight Aakre calculated more than 1.1 billion in economic losses to the state, as a result of the 5.6 million acres that couldn’t be planted. Aakre has not yet made any calculations for this year’s economic losses.

“I would venture to say he’s going to be asked to give us some estimates,” Krauter says. “When you think about it, 20 percent of the crop ground in North Dakota did not get planted — one in five.”

Krauter notes, however, that the counties with the most prevented plant acres are north of North Dakota Highway 200. Those are not the counties producing higher-value corn and soybean crops, but the production loss will be felt most heavily on crops such as canola, spring wheat, pulse crops (peas and lentils) sunflowers, flax and durum wheat.

Laurie Moss, state program specialist in St. Paul, says county FSA offices have been submitting summary reports to the state emergency board of federal agricultural agency heads, but have not been asked to compile prevented plant reports. She notes the FSA’s acreage reporting date has been extended from July 15 to Aug. 2, for FSA purposes, which also extends the deadline for reporting most of the prevented plant acreage.

It isn’t known whether the prevented plant numbers affect future programs, including base acres for payment purposes.

Krauter says there have been questions about whether the federal Risk Management Agency would count 2012 as an “abnormally dry” year — disqualifying the year from a formula that allows farmers to be eligible for prevented plant insurance if they plant in any one of the previous four years. But U.S. Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., says RMA Acting Administrator Brandon Willis, this week assured him 2012 won’t “automatically” be considered an abnormally dry year for the one-in-four rule, but Willis said “growers will have to work with their insurer on a case-by-case basis to make the determination.” Hoeven says Willis promised to work with his staff to “develop more objective criteria to define ‘normal weather conditions’” for insurance purposes.

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