BOISE — A recently formed grain crisis response group in Idaho is trying to find ways to help wheat and barley growers in Southern and Eastern Idaho who suffered heavy losses this year due to unusually heavy rains in August and early September.
The group was formed by Idaho’s Speaker of the House, Rep. Scott Bedke, a Republican rancher and farmer from Oakley who said the direct losses will be between $120 million and $180 million.
“These will be the largest losses that these family farms have suffered in a generation,” he said.
The group consists of growers, legislators, grain commission directors, representatives from Idaho’s congressional delegation and the Idaho State Department of Agriculture, farm trade experts, insurance agents and adjusters and representatives from Farm Service Agency.
During an Oct. 16 meeting at the Statehouse, the group focused on gaps in wheat and barley insurance policies that will result in some growers receiving little or no coverage despite massive losses.
Randy Hardy, who grows 1,500 acres of wheat and barley in Oakley, purchased insurance for his 2014 grain crop only to discover gaps in the policy will result in him getting close to nothing to cover his losses.
Hardy said his losses related to the rain damage will be between $300,000 and $400,000 but he’s established enough that he’ll probably withstand it.
However, he added, there are a lot of farmers who might not and the group is working hard to find some relief for them.
“We really feel like at least those that went out and paid the price for insurance should have gotten some insurance,” he said.
Bedke said one of the group’s main goals is to have the USDA’s regional Risk Management Agency in Spokane, Wash., issue some guidance to clear up confusing language in insurance policies so there’s no doubt about what is covered.
The goal is to have that done quickly so producers who lost wheat and barley can receive compensation this year, he added.
“The language in these policies has room for interpretation and we need those policies to be interpreted in a way that is most advantageous to the producers,” he said.
Hardy said contradictory provisions within policies resulted in normal or higher-than-normal yields offsetting the poor quality of wheat and barley that was caused by the rains.
“Our large yields were due to the same event that caused the poor quality, so we ended up with nothing,” he said.
Idaho Grain Producers Association Executive Director Travis Jones said the group also wants to see the insurance policies fixed to ensure there is no repeat of what happened this year.
Crisis group member Heber Loughmiller, an insurance agent who sells wheat and barley policies, said he has heard from a lot of producers who are seeking answers and he wants to help.
“Not every phone conversation is a real pleasant one,” said Loughmiller, who is also a farmer. “But you know what, they’ve got a valid gripe.”