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Local News

July 24, 2012

Drought’s impact being felt by local farmers

CENTERVILLE — Appanoose County farmer's main message to Rep. Dave Loebsack Saturday was three-fold: Yields will be much lower because of the drought, open Conservation Reserve Program acres now and keep our Farm Service Agency office from closing.

For more than 60 minutes Saturday afternoon in 100 degree heat Rep. Loebsack met with 14 local farmers at the farm of Dan Furlin Jr. west of Numa to address local issues associated with the drought. By the time the visit ended, the drought of 2012 was said to have long-term  national ramifications.

"This is affecting a lot of the country," Loebsack said, based on conversations he has had with Indiana, Illinois, Colorado and Texas colleagues. "And it's not only going to effect farmers. It's already affecting consumers. It's going to affect a lot of the economy."

Loebsack talked about the value of Iowa farmers.

"I think a lot of America doesn't understand how important farmers in Iowa are," Loebsack said. "I'm trying to make people in other parts of the county aware of the situation."

Dan Furlin Jr., president of Appanoose County Farm Bureau, who has close to 80 head of cattle, owns 324 acres and farms close to 600 acres of corn, soybeans and hay west of Numa, made the case the Centerville FSA office needs to stay open.

"I'd say, if you want to help the farmers in this area, with disaster and what other programs the government does like CRP and stuff, I'd say the biggest help would be keeping this (FSA) office open," Furlin Jr. said, noting FSA offices in surrounding counties are not familiar with Appanoose County farmers and farms. "You go in this county, you walk in the door, they're going to be able to figure out stuff like that. That's where the help is, our FSA office. We're just a number anywhere else. Here we're not a number."    

The Centerville FSA office that serves Appanoose County is slated to close Sept. 28.

Later, Furlin said he's optimistic the Appanoose County FSA will stay open if federal lawmakers get together and look at the facts.

Dan Clark, a weekend "hobby farmer" with 225 acres of corn, soybeans and CRP east of Centerville, made the case for opening up CRP ground right now for grazing or haying. The federal government's plan to waiting until Aug. 2 to release the land means what is available to graze or hay will be useless because of the ongoing drought, he said.

"So by the time they release it, there won't be anything to cut," Clark said.

Farmers in this area have had one cutting of hay and a little bit of a second, Furlin Jr. said. "And we don't expect much more this year unless it rains."

Clark said Appanoose County is mostly livestock production. He said cattle the last five years has gone from 24,000 to 17,000 head in the county and crop insurance doesn't cover livestock.

"And we're going to lose that other 17,000 if something is not done for the livestock producer," Clark said. "We have no emergency feed for livestock at all."

Clark said it will cost between $400-$500 just to feed one calf until next spring and by March the remaining 17,000 head of cattle in Appanoose County will be gone.

Several farmers talked about expected crop yields.

One man said his corn yield will be between zero and 50-60 bushels per acre for corn. Soybeans might hit 20 bushels per acre this year, another said.

And the difference between early and late corn?

Clark said early corn in Appanoose County could hit 40 bushels per acre if it rains while late corn is toast.

Loebsack said he would pressure House leadership to bring the Farm Bill to the floor before it expires on Sept. 30. He said he would call on Congress to remain in session until the Farm Bill is passed.

"First of all, we've got to get a farm bill through as soon as possible," Rep. Loebsack said. "That's being held up right now in the House, as well as a lot of other things ... by both parties, actually."

Loebsack said the House will adjourn Aug. 3 and won't return to Washington until mid-September.

"I'm going to keep arguing that we shouldn't be adjourning on Aug. 3 if we can't get this thing done," Loebsack said.

Appanoose County was approved for emergency farm loans because of the recent lack of rain and severe heat.

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