By LOU WILIN
Safety nets, like low-interest loans and crop insurance, might take some of the sting out of this year’s disaster for farmers.
But neither will make them whole.
Emergency low-interest loans, resulting from a federal disaster declaration for Hancock County, are available to qualifying farmers. But the loans are confined to financing farm operations, said Jim Greve, Hancock County executive director of the Farm Service Agency.
The loans do not pay for groceries or medicine.
“My next paycheck is October 2020. That’s how long it takes to get my next crop in next year,” said Dave Thomas, an Arcadia area farmer. “Since I have nothing planted (this year), I have nothing to sell.”
“Take any business in Findlay, you name any business in Findlay: What if their sales went to zero for a year? A year. And they still have got everything invested,” Thomas said. “My overhead (expense) goes on the same. So, that will be the challenge.”
Some farmers bought crop insurance, which can pay them for unplanted crops, or for crops that were planted but yield lower quantity or quality. It’s a mere safety net, though.
“In a year like this, yeah, it’s going to save their rear end,” said Gary Wilson, a Jenera area farmer and former Hancock County Extension agent. However, “I know some farmers who don’t have any” insurance, Wilson said.
Like other insurance, crop insurance comes in different levels. And farmers with crop insurance are not happy about having to make a claim.
“Crop insurance is like life insurance: It’s the last thing you want to collect because you don’t benefit from it,” Thomas said. “It protects some aspects of your operation, but you can’t make a living on crop insurance. It helps soften the blow.”
The insurance also generates more anxiety. Farmers are uncertain how much of their losses will be covered by their policies.
“My best hope is that we have a break-even on the crop insurance to cover the expenses that I’m putting out there now with no crop coming,” said Cecil Boes, who farms between Findlay, Arcadia and Bloomdale.
“Our crop insurance is designed for fairly shallow losses, not catastrophic losses,” said Mark Drewes, who farms in the McComb area. “It’s not going to make us whole.”
More relief may be coming to farmers from Washington, some observers said. But Greve at the Farm Service Agency, who would be the point man for administering any additional relief coming from Washington, is cautious.
Yes, more relief than the low-interest loans is a possibility, he said, but he has not heard any indication that it will happen.
“Ad hoc programs typically come after the fact, after they have had time to evaluate what the true impact (of a disaster) was. Usually that would be after harvest before they make a determination on that,” Greve said.
“As it stands now, we have not received any information that we’re going to have any kind of disaster legislation,” he said. “The low-interest loans are the only thing from the standpoint of the conditions we have on the ground now that the federal government would do outside of the norm.”
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