To be a farmer in Missouri, you have to be an optimist. You have to smile when Mother Nature punches you in the wallet. Last year, Missouri had record rainfall in May and June. So much rain made it difficult to plant corn on time. That made it harder to turn a profit.
When it rained for weeks on end last May, June and part of July, Missouri farmers kept having to push back their planting. The longer it was pushed back, the more the hopes of getting their crops to grow dwindled. Every day that the farmers were unable to plant, they lost 1 percent of insurance coverage for their total acreage.
At some point, mid-Missouri farmers had to make a decision: keep trying to plant or cut their losses. Some farmers chose less insurance covering their crops and got a lower crop yield, operating their farms at a loss. Some of their crops weren’t even harvestable. Others decided to not plant their crops at all and instead asked their insurance company to cover their costs that year.
Ray Massey, a crop economist at MU Extension, specializes in risk management for crops. He explained what happens when farmers ask insurance companies for help.
“They could just say ‘I have been prevented from planting’ and they will get a check about 65 percent of what they would have normally gotten a check for,” said Massey.
Ryan Milhollin, an agricultural economist at MU Extension, said about 1 million acres of soybeans and about 500,000 acres of corn went to “prevented planting” last year.
Steve Hobbs is a farmer in Audrain County. The prolonged rain last season damaged his and his neighbors’ crops.
“We led the state here in Audrain County in the numbers of prevented planting acres where soybeans were not even planted,” said Hobbs.
But even when there isn’t a prolonged period of rain and farmers are taking out prevented planting insurance, it’s not a good idea for farmers to plant late.
“There is a rule here. After June 10 or 15, you just don’t plant corn because you have the opportunity to have it frosted. And if it is frosted before it’s matured, it’s killed and it’s worthless,” said Hobbs.
Insurance no longer covers the crop once it starts sprouting or germinating said Massey. When the seed is still in the ground and needs to be pollinated to grow into that sprout, insurance will cover the farmer if there’s a frost or insect that harms the crop.
The sooner a farmer is able to plant his crop, the earlier pollination can occur. Cooler months toward the beginning of the planting season help create a better crop yield. Normally in Missouri, pollination occurs in July- the hottest month of the year.
Farmers have to be careful though. They can’t plant too early, otherwise they’ll lose their insurance coverage. The state is divided into three sections that determine when farmers can begin planting and receive full insurance coverage.
“If you plant before that date, and you have a problem with germination with crops coming up, your insurance is void,” said Massey.
Just like farming, when the weather is bad, farmers have to play their odds. They have to decide which will cost them the most in the long run.
“For the farmers, they want to plant. They don’t want to use the prevented planting and then for the crop insurance, they also want the farmer to plant. So they’ll be much happier if they do not get an extensive rain that causes problems,” said Massey.