Extreme weather conditions across 80 percent of the continental U.S. in 2012 forced the Federal Crop Insurance Program (FCIP) to pay out to farmers a record-breaking $17.3 billion in crop losses during last year’s growing season, according to a study by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).
The study, “Soil Matters,” which details last year’s crop losses county-by-county in all 50 states, found that losses from drought, heat and hot wind alone accounted for 80 percent of all farm losses, with Upper Midwest and Great Plains states hit hardest. And with no end in sight for extreme weather conditions, similar record-breaking insurance payouts will likely continue to increase, NRDC predicted.
Severe drought conditions in 2012 affected 67 percent of cattle production and about 70 percent to 75 percent of corn and soybean production, according to "U.S. Drought 2012: Farm and Food Impacts," a study by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture. More than 80 percent of the acres of major field crops planted in the U.S. are covered by federal crop insurance.
However, farmers who practice crop-loss prevention methods, such as planting cover crops, practicing no-till farming, and improving irrigation scheduling, can limit those losses and help “climate-proof” American farms, the NRDC study concluded.
To encourage these practices, NRDC proposes a crop insurance reform pilot plan that would offer reduced premium rates to farmers who adopt proven soil-building management practices. For a complete copy of the study, go to www.nrdc.org/water/your-soil-matters.
Click on the following pages to learn about the top 10 states with the largest overall crop insurance payouts due to drought, heat and hot wind.
10. Texas: 75% of losses, costing $974,548,606
Although conditions were dry in many cotton-producing regions of the U.S. throughout 2012, they were much improved from the drought conditions of 2011. The final yield estimate for the 2012 crop was 887 pounds per acre, up from 790 in 2011. (Source: "U.S. Drought 2012: Farm and Food Impacts," U.S. Dept. of Agriculture)
9. Nebraska: 92% of losses, costing $1,427,738,976
The NRDC recommends cover crops to build soil health and increase biodiversity on farms focused on growing major commodity crops. Farmers who used cover crops in 2012 averaged higher yields than farmers who did not, according to the USDA.
8. Kansas: 93% of losses, costing $1,273,662,944
Fall harvested wheat (spring wheat) is produced mainly in the upper Midwest and Northern Plains areas that were relatively less affected by last year's drought. Final 2012 wheat yields estimated at 46.3 bushels per acre were 2.6 bushels per acre above estimates for the 2011 crop. (Source: "U.S. Drought 2012," USDA)
7. South Dakota: 93% of losses, costing $1,029,780,352
The NRDC recommends no-till farming as another way to protect soil. This is a soil moisture management method when farmers plant directly into the stubble from the previous year’s crops rather than plowing up the residue. In 2010, corn farmers who used no-till were 30 percent less likely to file a crop insurance claim than conventional tilling corn farmers.
6. Wisconsin: 94% of losses, costing $372,479,370
5. Missouri: 95% of losses, costing $1,098,310,111
Severe drought in 2012 affected 67 percent of cattle production. Milk production in 2012 was 2.0 percent higher than 2011, but continued high feed costs were expected to result in 2013 milk production rising about 0.7 percent. (Source: "U.S. Drought 2012," USDA)
4. Kentucky: 96% of losses, costing $454,380,256
3. Indiana: 97% of losses, costing $1,130,302,660
The NRDC recommends that farmers apply adaptive irrigating schedules based on frequent examinations of soil health. This improved efficiency could help farmers avoid some supply constraints that cause losses during dry years; in 2012, irrigation supply failures accounted for more than $14.7 million in indemnity payments.
2. Iowa: 97% of losses, costing $1,924,444,160
A significant amount of soybean acreage was in drought-affected regions. After a large reduction in estimated 2012 soybean yields earlier in the growing season, late-season rainfall improved yield prospects in many states. The final 2012 yield was 39.6 bushels per acre. Soybean yields in 2012 were the lowest since 2003. (Source: "U.S. Drought 2012," USDA)
1. Illinois: 98% of losses, costing $3,011,443,799
The final U.S. corn production estimates were 10.78 billion bushels, down sharply from early-season projections of 14.8 billion. (Source: "U.S. Drought 2012," USDA)