October 6, 2010
“A crop in the field is not a crop in the barn,” I told my non-farmer friend – it was just a day before the most recent storms when my friend marveled at the 7 foot high corn.
The corn is now in a flooded field and it may be weeks before it can be harvested.
Even non-farmers know the vagaries of weather keep the best of farmers up at night. With so much at stake there is no more stressful time than harvest season. And this season’s stress is compounded with recent storms.
Farmers, like their city cousins, should estimate damage caused by the storms. Local city, village and town officials are busy gathering estimates on damage caused to public structures and reporting this information to the county emergency management staff. Famers should also report damage to private property including crops.
Farmers with crop insurance should contact their insurance agent. Even if the crops are uninsured a farmer should estimate the damage, the number of acres and the type of crop. Include non traditional crops – market gardens, organic crops and small grains. Make a record that includes past yields, pictures of damaged or flooded fields, buildings, ruined fences or debris that must be removed. Farmers should contact their county agents to report these damages. Most agents I know have already emailed farmers on their list and asked for damage estimates.
Purdue University has a great website to help sort through management options on flood damaged fields at http://www.agry.purdue.edu/ext/corn/cafe/flood/index.html. From managing flooded manure storage structures to flood damaged grain bins and marketing flood damaged grain, the website will help farmers navigate some of the more difficult management questions the flood has left us.
I learned from reading the Purdue website that determining loss in soybeans can sometimes be extremely difficult. Fungus, shattering, lodging, sprouting and silting in are all possible problems that may affect quality. Even when the water is off the field, farmers may want to keep separate their grain from flooded fields during harvest.
As farmers deal with flooded fields and damaged crops their normal harvest season stress is significantly higher. Stress, hurry and fatigue sometimes can lure anyone into skipping routine safety checks. Don’t let that happen!
According to the National Safety Council agriculture ranks as one of the three most hazardous occupations in the United States. Most farmers have had or came close to serious injury.
Kevin Papp, a Minnesota farmer who teaches about farm safety, explains how often farmers and farm workers have a brush with danger:
“For every serious agriculture injury, the victim will have experienced ten close calls, 30 cases of personal property damage and 600 instances when nothing happened at all. It’s like choosing one piece of candy from a bag of 641- 40 coated with Ex-Lax TM and one with poison. Would you take one? Of course not.”
“Take Time and Slow Down” is easier said than done. But farm safety experts explain the most important thing a person can do is to slow down and learn to manage stress. Regina Fischer, a safety specialist of the Marshfield Clinic Farm Medicine Center reminds farmers to eat properly, get sleep and remember that you can’t control the weather.
As flood waters recede, fields dry out and crop harvest moves into full swing, remember the words of Sargent Phil Esterhaus (played by Michael Conrad) in Hill Street Blues, “Let’s be safe out there!”