Reporting from Harvest Public Media’s Bill Wheelhouse.
Farmers across the country received more than $17 billion in federal crop insurance payouts after last year’s drought. A report released Tuesday by an environmental group blames farmers for not doing enough to shield the soil against the heat.
The heavy rains that caused flooding across portions of Missouri this spring have also led to improved soil conditions for crops grown in the Show-Me State.
The exceptionally-wet spring did cause delays in getting corn, cotton and soybeans in the ground. But Bob Garino, Missouri Statistician with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) state office in Columbia, says conditions are much better than a year ago when 2012's drought and heat wave began to take hold.
A new report shows that the nation's worst drought in decades is getting worse again, ending an encouraging five-week run of improving conditions.
The weekly U.S. Drought Monitor report shows that 60.1 percent of the continental U.S. was in some form of drought as of Tuesday. That's up from 58.8 percent the previous week. The portion of the lower 48 states in extreme or exceptional drought - the two worst classifications - also rose, to 19.04 percent from last week's 18.3 percent.
This summer's drought has hit more than half the states in the country. Crops are suffering, but farmers might not be. Most farmers have crop insurance.
U.S. taxpayers spend about $7 billion a year on crop insurance. It's our largest farm subsidy.
And this subsidy goes in part to farmers — who will tell you themselves they aren't so sure about the whole idea. "I have an aversion to it," says Jim Traub, a corn and bean farmer in Fairbury, Illinois. "But you're not going to turn it down."
Stop by most any unirrigated farm across the lower Midwest and you'll see crops in distress. Midwestern corn and soybean farmers are taking a beating during the recent drought, but it's not likely to drive many out of business.
Most of those farmers carry terrific insurance, and the worse the drought becomes, the more individual farmers will be paid for their lost crops. The federal government picks up most of the cost of the crop insurance program, and this year that bill is going to be a whopper.
Missouri officials say the May 22 tornado in Joplin contributed to the net loss of 13,000 jobs in the state. Joplin alone lost 9,400 jobs in June. The State Department of Economic Development says Missouri’s jobless rate fell from 8.9 percent in May to 8.8 percent in June. In recovery efforts, Gov. Jay Nixon will make a speech Tuesday in Joplin to announce what he calls a “major initiative to address both the near-term and long-term housing needs.”