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With crop insurance coverage in mind, farmers hustle to plant

Article cover photo
Isaac Volz drills soybeans into corn stubble at his farm near Bouton earlier this spring. Farmers across the state had more favorable weather this week to try and finish planting. (Photo: Joseph L. Murphy/Iowa Soybean Association)

By Bethany Baratta, ISA senior writer

The May 31 corn planting data designated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Risk Management Agency (RMA) for Iowa’s crop insurance has come and gone, and farmers are taking every opportunity to get their crops planted this week as crop insurance coverage on corn acres is reduced 1 percent per day.

Eighty percent of the expected corn crop was planted in Iowa as of June 2, nearly 3 weeks behind the 5-year average, according to the USDA. This is the smallest amount of corn planted by June 2 since 1982 when 76 percent of the expected crop had been planted.

Each day after May 31 is a 1 percent reduction in crop insurance protection for the corn crop in Iowa.

“Farmers are making planting decisions on a day-by-day basis,” said Don Roose, founder and president of brokerage U.S. Commodities in West Des Moines.

Recent warm, dry weather this week provided an opportunity for farmers to get their crops planted. For Dave Walton, secretary of the Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) board of directors, it was a rare opportunity this season.

We’ve only had about four days fit for planting this whole season. We’ve worked our tails off when we had those windows, but they’ve been few and far between,” Walton said.

Eighty percent of his corn crop has been planted. The remaining 20 percent is iffy, he said.

“I think if I can get corn in the ground by June 10 or 12, I’ll keep focusing on corn, but after that point gets difficult,” he said.

There’s no herbicide on the acres left to plant, but there nitrogen has been applied.

“That expense doesn’t help beans at all,” Walton said. “Prevent plant is not a good economic option for me, either. I’m not sure which way we’re going to go.”

It’s a planting and planning dilemma for most farmers in the state, Roose said.

“The first choice is to plant corn, but looking at the calendar now, that’s iffy. Likely, the second choice for most is to go prevent plant,” he said. “The third choice is to plant soybeans because fundamentals are weak and carryover soybean supplies are quite burdensome.”

Roose said there could be some acres shift to soybeans, but it’ll likely be small.

“I think it’ going to be a minimal shift. I think we’ll see acres go to prevent plant before they go to soybeans here in Iowa,” Roose said.

Source: United States Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Statistics Service - Iowa Crop Progress & Condition Report

Soybean planting lagging

The USDA’s report said 41 percent of the expected soybean crop had been planted in Iowa, 18 days behind last year and the average. This is the smallest percent of soybeans planted by June 2 since 1993 when just 39 percent of the expected crop had been planted, the report said.

Walton had yet to plant a single soybean this season.

“I think I’ll plant all the way until the first of July. Much past that, I might have to take prevent plant and plant a cover crop to protect the soil and hold nutrients in place,” he said

Rainy weather has delayed planting progress this entire season for Walton and many others in the state. This past week he was bouncing between fields and isolated showers to find some ground fit for planting.

“This is just almost an hour by hour thing. We’re revisiting where we plant, what we do a couple times a day,” Walton said.

Other planting progress in the state:

David Ausberger, Jefferson: “It certainly has been a frustrating season, but I am more fortunate than most. I got a lot of soybeans planted early and then got behind on corn. My primary frustration is the crop insurance clock that is ticking. I lose 1 percent per day, which is really frustrating. But I’m out here, hoping to be done with my corn today (Wednesday) and be done with soybeans by the end of this week. I’m rolling with punches and hoping to get it done.”

Gregg Hora, Fort Dodge: “The soils are just starting to dry out after a month of soggy conditions. Wet areas of fields take longer, but this summertime heat is definitely helping us catch up. About 95 percent of my corn has been planting, and I’m trying to get soybean planting done now (Wednesday). The marginal fields should be planted, and we should be pretty well wrapped up by the weekend. Overall I’m feeling optimistic about planting.”

Tom Adam, Harper: “I was done planting at the end of April, but we have not turned a wheel on custom acres in more than five weeks. The last couple of days we got a lot done, but then we got a quarter of an inch of rain and got rained out again. We hope to get back to the fields to get sidedressing done and then start planting again.”

Katie Johnson contributed to this story.

Contact Bethany Baratta at

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