GRAND ISLAND - Despite planting delays and the acres that were not planted because of flood and weather damage, Nebraska farmers are planting 4% more corn this season, according to the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is offering a special Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) sign-up for farmers in Nebraska who could not plant their crops because of flooded or wet fields. This sign-up provides technical and financial assistance to help farmers plant cover crops, an alternative to letting fields go fallow and uncovered.

The deadline to apply is July 19. This is an extension of the June 21 sign-up deadline announced in April.

According to the NRCS, excessive moisture and flooding have prevented or delayed planting on many farms across Nebraska.

“Many producers are unable to plant crops by a final planting date or have experienced significant delays in planting,” said Craig Derickson, NRCS state conservationist.

According to the USDA, Nebraska producers planted 10 million acres of corn for all purposes. This is up 4% from last year. Of the total acres, 96% were planted with biotechnology varieties, unchanged from 2018. Area to be harvested for grain is estimated at 9.65 million acres, up 4% from a year ago.

Earlier this week, the USDA reported that state corn condition rated 1% very poor, 4% poor, 21% fair, 64% good and 10% excellent.

While corn was up, state soybean planted acreage is estimated at 5 million acres, down 12% from last year. Of these, 95% were planted with genetically modified, herbicide-resistant seed, down 1% from 2018. Producers expect to harvest 4.95 million acres, down 12% from a year ago.

Nebraska soybean condition rated 1% very poor, 4% poor, 21% fair, 66% good and 8% excellent. Soybeans emerged was 96%, near the 100% last year and the 98% five-year average.

Trade issues with China, which has been a large purchaser of Nebraska soybeans, is also a contributing factor to the lower soybean acres.

According to Jay Rempe, Nebraska Farm Bureau senior economist, Nebraska agriculture exports were down almost $200 million in 2017 compared to 2016. Most of that decline was due to decreased exports of soybeans, which were down $130 million.

According to The Associated Press, USDA estimated Chinese retaliatory tariffs enacted last year caused roughly $11 billion in damages to U.S. farmers. The government provided up to $12 billion — mainly in the form of direct payments to farmers — to offset those impacts from Oct. 1, 2018, to May 31, 2019.

A second round of funding has been announced, authorizing USDA to provide up to $16 billion in additional offsets, much of which will also be direct payments to farmers affected by the trade war.

Of the money, 82.6% — $7.06 billion — went to 415,791 soybean farmers.

When it comes to farmers looking to plant cover crops because of flood and severe weather damage, Derickson said fields that are saturated for an extended period can lose important soil organisms. Cover crop roots add organic matter and create pathways for air and water to move through the soil, which is key to restoring its health.

“Cover crops help farmers manage soil erosion, weeds, and pests and improve soil health,” he said. “They can also help soil health recover after a flood or a long period of remaining wet.”

Derickson said cover crops also improve soil’s physical and biological properties, supply nutrients, improve the availability of soil water, and break pest cycles along with various other benefits. Cover crops approved for funding through this sign-up can potentially be hayed or grazed.

“For Nebraska’s cropland that suffered significant damage, planting a cover crop can be a great way to help protect fields and restore productivity,” he said.

For more information, or to apply for this special EQIP funding, contact your local NRCS office.

As for other Nebraska crops, the USDA reported:

— Winter wheat planted in the fall of 2018 is estimated at a record low 1.07 million acres, down 3% from last year. Harvested area is expected to total 970,000 acres, down 4% from a year ago. Winter wheat condition rated 1% very poor, 5% poor, 21% fair, 45% good and 28% excellent. Winter wheat headed was 98%, near the 100% both last year and average.

— Alfalfa acreage to be harvested for dry hay is estimated at 900,000 acres, up 6% from last year. Other hay acreage to be cut for dry hay is estimated at 1.6 million acres, down 14% from a year ago.

— Sorghum planted for all purposes is estimated at 230,000 acres, unchanged from the previous year. Area to be harvested for grain is estimated at 165,000 acres, down 3% from last year. Sorghum condition rated 2% poor, 14% fair, 80% good and 4% excellent. Sorghum planted was 97%, near the 100% last year and the 99% average. Headed was 9%, ahead of the 5% last year and the 2% average.

— Oats planted for all purposes is estimated at 85,000 acres, down 32% from last year. Area to be harvested for grain is estimated at 19,000 acres, down 14% from last year.

— Dry edible bean planted acreage is estimated at 120,000 acres. Harvested acres are estimated at 110,000 acres.

— Proso millet planted, at 90,000 acres, is down 5% from a year ago.

— Sugarbeet planted acres, at 44,500 acres, are down 2% from last year. Harvested area is forecast at 43,700 acres, down 1% from a year ago.

— Oil sunflower planted area is estimated at 25,000 acres, unchanged from last year. Harvested area is estimated at 24,000 acres, unchanged from a year ago. Non-oil sunflower planted area is estimated at 10,000 acres, down 17% from the previous year. Harvested area is estimated at 9,000 acres, down 5% from the previous year.

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