Oct. 07--The region's farmers who incurred damage from the historic drought now face the reality of seeking recovery through crop insurance or other disaster aid.
Some experts already are forecasting record losses, with estimates that underwriting losses on taxpayer-subsidized crop insurance will reach nearly $15 billion this year -- with $25 billion in claims alone filed nationwide. No firm idea on the extent of insurance losses is available yet from the federal government, since harvest is still proceeding in the Corn Belt.
The St. Joseph branch of an agricultural lender said insurance companies already have urged corn producers to go forward with advance claims based on anticipated losses. Those claims have been filed over the past six weeks, said Corey Neill, assistant vice president of risk management for FCS Financial.
"There's still a question mark on those," Mr. Neill said, referring to the possibility of insurance claims on the pending soybean crop.
The level of insurance claims in the region stemming from the drought will easily surpass those associated with the 2011 Missouri River flood, he said. Counties that include Buchanan, Holt and Atchison are among those with the lowest percentage of claims filed, he added, while counties such as Andrew, DeKalb and Gentry have been showing higher percentages of claims.
"It's about what we expected" in the number of claims linked to the drought, said Jim Spiking, an ag lender with FCS Financial.
As far as potential livestock losses, Mr. Neill said no insurance is offered that pertains to animal mortality or performance. However, he said a federal Pasture, Rangeland and Forage Program delivers insurance for 2013 protection based on losses of forage for grazing or hay. The program's payouts are figured according to vegetation or rainfall indices, and a Nov. 15 application deadline is currently in effect.
"We are getting quite a bit of interest for next year," Mr. Neill said of the PRF program.
Other assistance is available to producers who have suffered through the drought.
The USDA'sFarm Service Agency oversees Supplemental Revenue Assistance Payments to farmers and ranchers with crop losses caused by natural disasters, said Craig Everly, director of the agency's Buchanan County office. But the program always runs one year behind the period for which applications are filed, he said, with signups for the 2011 crop year about to begin. Average yields for 2012 won't be calculated until early 2013, he said.
"I think this drought is going to be worse because it's over a bigger area," Mr. Everly said, drawing a distinction with the losses from the 2011 flood.
FCS Financial is one of many agricultural lending agencies charged with fielding stacks of insurance claims from the drought, Mr. Neill said.
"Every state is swamped," he said. "Payments may drag on for several months."
Despite the drought, the USDA'sEconomic Research Service said 2012's net farm income is forecast to rise 3.7 percent from last year to a record $122.2 billion.
The Associated Press contributed information to this story.
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