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Rain too late for corn

By Staff | Aug 8, 2012

REP. STEVE KING, foreground, studies first-hand Saturday the effect of the drought on corn grown by Craig Utesch of Triple-U Ranch north of Correctionville. They are holding stunted ears with severe tip back issues. “The drought really started two summers ago,” Utesch told King. “Each year, we’ve had early spring rains that just quit on July 1. We need substantial rains to get us back to good levels of subsoil moisture.”

By DOUG CLOUGH

douglasclough@gmail.com

CORRECTIONVILLE – Brown pastures, wilted corn and furrowed brows were the things Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, saw Saturday while touring a drought-stressed farm.

King had been in Washington two days earlier hammering out disaster relief measures for farmers, was getting a first-hand look the damage on the Triple U Ranch, which straddles the northeast corner of Woodbury and southwest corner of Cherokee counties in Northwest Iowa.

It is owned by third-generation farmers Craig, Brad and Kirk Utesch. The farm was purchased by their grandfather in 1944. King said he visited the Triple U Ranch due to “its balanced operation that helps to insulate it from the trouble a drought brings.”

The Utesch family has a diversified farming operation consisting of a cow calf herd, a beef feedlot and row crops.

“When you drive by the corn fields and you see them literally turn white before your eyes,” Utesch told King, who serves on the House ag committee. “It does something to your psyche. You know that you could lose it all.”

Utesch said the rain that fell the morning of the tour would only have mediocre effect. “The corn is done,” he said. “We’ll have to harvest what’s there. As far as the beans, the rain may or may not be beneficial depending if the pods have set.”

August so far has recorded more rain in the area compared to all of July.

Last week, King voted in favor of legislation passed by the House to provide drought relief to agriculture producers hard hit by the severe, record dry spell affecting much of the country. In a statement submitted for floor debate of the measure, King noted that while the relief measure will be helpful, especially to Iowa’s livestock producers, the need for action on the farm bill is growing by the day.

King said that his visit to the Utesch family farm was meant to emphasize the need for action.

King and Utesch stopped by a portion of the ranch’s row crop that has already been chopped for silage. Normally, Utesch said, he chops 80 acres of corn in order to fill the ranch’s two silage pits. While Utesch and his brother Brad have chopped 50 acres of their field for this purpose, the brothers said that they will have to consume 300 to 500 acres this year for feed, at least five times as much as the normal amount.

“We started chopping early this year,” Utesch said, “because we need to see the nitrate levels drop a great deal before we use it for feed. We believe we’ve got enough hay to get us through until that point. Our largest single challenge is to have the pasture last long enough so we can uses stalks when they are available to feed.”

Livestock owners are the hardest hit, King said. “The drought cuts down feed supply and producers have to liquidate their numbers because there isn’t enough feed.”

King is a supporter of providing the Secretary of Agriculture the authority to open Conservation Reserve Program and Wetland Reserve Program acres to grazing and harvesting as forage.

“The Livestock Indemnity Program would be one of the House plans that we could have,” King said. “They expired last Sept. 30. I want to extend them.

“The house tried to do that, in fact, we did do that. We passed an extension for some disaster relief and that was on Thursday (Aug. 2), and within a couple of hours the Senate stepped up and blocked our initiative.”

King also voted for a $383 million drought assistance package that was later blocked by the House.

According to King, he is currently working on getting a farm bill passed in Washington to provide farm relief to Iowa producers.

The current bill expires Sept. 30.

“We’re looking to pass a version of the bill that will last five years,” King said. “You’ll never have certainty in this business, but you can have predictability in regards to the government.

“If you only pass the bill for one year – or not at all – then it scrambles everyone’s long-term plans … family plans, farm plans and ranch plans.”

King encouraged farmers to apply for drought relief at their local Farm Service Agency offices.

“Disaster relief programs will work alongside crop insurance,” King said. “These programs are not meant to take the place of that insurance.”

When asked if there would be enough government funds to support the billions of dollars of crop insurance checks, King responded, “We’ll find it. We have to find it. A deal is a deal.”

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