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Agents estimate 30,000 acres of crops damaged

Posted 6/14/16 (Tue)

Agents estimate 30,000 acres of crops damaged

By Sydney Glasoe Caraballo
The northern hail swath mowed down fields along the ND 5 corridor Thursday afternoon. That evening another storm system swept south past Alamo, Ray and Tioga while levitating a 25,000-bushel grain bin and cement pad, tossing a converted oil tanker bin nearly two miles and pulverizing all acreage in its wake.
“This storm took a lot of crop,” said Troy Kupper, who farms north of Ray. “It was the mower.”
Prelminary estimates from only three local crop insurance agents place the number of acres damaged from the two events at nearly 30,000, in Divide and northern Williams counties.
Mark Holm said his pea field two miles northwest of Crosby was shredded, and other pulse crops seeded nearby didn’t fare any better.  
“I’m sure they’re not going to come back,” he said. “The hail took care of them."
Holm said he knows of neighbors who were hit worse than himself.
Holm seeded the end of April and said the peas were maturing from the warm weather and long days. He was more optimistic about his flax and durum that got hit and thinks those crops have a shot at re-growth.
Paul Hagen, whose acreage was on the edge of the afternoon storm, agrees. “A lot of the crops are young enough where they’ll come back,” he said. “If they don’t get hit again, they’ll be fine.”
Hagen, whose acreage was hit last year in July, says his crops still recovered from later hail last year and produced decent yields. 
“Anything like this storm isn’t good,” he said. “But the damage shouldn’t be significant if we have good weather the rest of the year.”
On the street, people traded stories about producers who saw 1,000 acres or more leveled, in locales as diverse as Ambrose and Grenora. 
Robbi Larsen, crop insurance agent with Farm Credit Services in Crosby, estimates maybe only 10 percent of her usual customers had purchased hail coverage ahead of the storm.
“I couldn’t sleep last night,” she said.
She began taking calls from farmers the night of the storm. Calls and visits to the office continued non-stop Friday morning with reports of severe damage.
Farm acres near Fortuna and Ambrose were hit; the hail picked up velocity again several miles west of Crosby and continued several miles east.
Larsen, whose husband Brad farms near Fortuna, said their pea and lentil acreage was hit pretty hard. “We’ll probably be putting three fields back to black dirt,” Larsen said.
She added that durum and spring wheat fields may bounce back since the storm hit so early in the season, but she said pulse crops – peas and lentils – are more susceptible to irreversible damage. 
Larsen said an additional 40 percent of her clients signed up for coverage on Friday. Farmers who bought coverage last year can buy the same amount by June 14 to potentially access some “carry over” coverage, but it is dependent on a complicated set of factors.
She estimated 20,000 acres of damaged crop for Farm Credit Services clients in the region, ranging from partial to full losses.
Larsen said most farmers wait until the beginning of July to purchase coverage. She recommended that farmers still report damages to their fields regardless whether they have hail insurance. Depending on the damage, they may still qualify under multi-peril coverage. 
Ron Anderson, Ray, said every one of 1,000 crop acres was hit by hail.
“I’m hoping it grows back, but I’m pretty skeptical,” Anderson said.
“We’ve been in the business long enough to know Mother Nature is still the boss,” added Anderson, who farms durum wheat, peas and lentils north of town.
Anderson considers himself fortunate after visiting with farmers northwest of Tioga, who said they lost farm buildings in the storm, as well as suffering extensive crop damage.
After experiencing severe hail damage to his crops in a 2014 storm, Anderson has kept close watch on the weather and called his insurance agent Thursday morning to get coverage.
Neighboring farmer Troy Kupper made the same call after examining the weather forecast.
He too was hit by the 2014 storm and says this one took nearly the same path. Two of his 25,000-bushel grain bins and one 10,000-bushel bin were lifted, along with their cement foundations, off the ground. He found his converted oil tanker grain bin nearly 2 miles away from its original location. 
Kupper, who raises barley, durum, lentils and peas, checked his fields after the storm and discovered 1,000 acres were hit. His father had 1,700 acres damaged.
Kupper will wait to do anything until the crop insurance adjuster inspects his fields, but the majority of his acreage was seeded between April and early May. He suspects his barley was too far along to recover, and his lentils and peas are too severely damaged also.