Sean Ellis/Capital Press
BOISE — Idaho farmers were prevented from planting an unusually large number of acres this year due to wet, soggy conditions that hampered their ability to get in their fields.
Across the state, growers claimed a total of 114,000 “prevented planting” acres in 2017, according to the Idaho Farm Service Agency.
Farmers can be eligible for prevented planting insurance when weather-related events stop them from planting a crop.
Those 114,000 prevented planting acres are “significantly more than we’ve had in recent years,” said Idaho FSA Farm Program Manager Jeff Mitchell.
There are about 20,000 prevented planting acres in Idaho during a typical year, he said.
Mitchell said most of those acres couldn’t be planted because fields were too soggy.
“It was just too wet,” said North Idaho farmer Robert Blair, who was unable to plant about 150 acres this year, most of it winter wheat.
Almost 69,000 of Idaho’s total prevented planting acres this year were wheat.
“There were plenty of spring wheat acres that didn’t get planted this year,” said “Genesee” Joe Anderson, a North Idaho grower. “It was too wet for some farmers.”
The prevented planting acres included 18,000 acres of dry beans, which include chickpeas, 8,300 acres of canola, 6,500 acres of lentils, 2,300 acres of dry peas and 1,000 acres of potatoes.
North Idaho farmers were hardest hit, as most of the state’s chickpeas, lentils and dry peas are grown there and the majority of the wheat acres not planted this year were in that region as well.
Weather conditions in North Idaho were particularly rough this year, Blair said. A heavy snowfall resulted in a lot of moisture following melt-off and then a late, cool spring was followed by heavy rains.
“It was a tough year around here,” he said.
Farmers who receive prevented planting insurance get a percentage of their crop insurance payment based partly on their history of planted acres.
“It never makes them whole but it does help (reimburse) them for their costs,” Mitchell said.
Blair said the payment “is enough money just to cover costs. You’re not making money off of it.”
He said growers have a lot of costs associated with their farm ground, whether or not a crop is planted. That could include turning it over in the fall, fertilizer, chemical applications and rent or taxes.
“Nobody wants to take prevented planting. There’s no farmer in the world who doesn’t want to grow a crop,” Blair said. “It’s a way to help growers absorb a very difficult year.”