Rains muddy race for crop insurance deadline

In 35 years of farming, Scott Van Allen has never planted so much wheat this late in the fall.

Rain has left him with soggy fields on his Sumner County farm. He still has to plant about 1,100 acres — or about half his wheat.

That presents a problem for Van Allen and other wheat farmers in his area.

The crop insurance deadline, as mandated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Risk Management Agency, is bearing down on them. Farmers in south-central Kansas have until Thursday to get their wheat planted.

Deadlines vary around the state. The cutoff dates have already passed for much of western Kansas, and the latest is Nov. 15 for most of the east and southeast.

But for Sumner, Sedgwick and about a dozen other counties, Thursday is the date.

"We certainly won't get all of it planted by the deadline," Van Allen said Friday.

After the deadline, agency's rules call for insured guarantees to drop 1 percent per day for the next 15 days.

After 15 days, farmers will be able to get only 60 percent of their insured guarantees.

The five-year state average for having wheat planted by this time is 89 percent, according to the Kansas Agricultural Statistics Service. As of Monday, the service said 80 percent of the wheat had been planted.

But some of the top wheat-producing areas are far behind that pace. Sumner and Sedgwick counties have about 50 percent of their wheat planted.

"It's a real problem in this area," said Ron Palecki, owner of Wichita's P&B Insurance, which specializes in crop insurance. "We were wet last year, but the last two weeks, (before the deadline), it quit raining. Everyone got their

wheat in."

Not this year.

McPherson County extension agent Dale Ladd estimated Friday that only 25 percent of his county's wheat had been planted.

That's not good. Today is the insurance deadline for McPherson and a large diagonal swath of counties running from the southwest to the northeast.

"You don't see something like this very often," Ladd said. "Maybe once in every 10 or 12 years."

Sedgwick County extension agent Gary Cramer and Ladd said they have farmers in their areas who still have to get fall crops off their fields before they can plant wheat.

"This certainly complicates things," Cramer said.

Most wheat farmers carry some level of insurance.

They can insure their crop for 80 to 85 percent of its value, Palecki said, but most farmers opt for the 70 to 75 percent level.

Missed deadlines, however, will knock off some percentage points.

But weather rules.

Van Allen hadn't been able to get into his fields since Oct. 7 before doing some ground work ahead of the drilling on Wednesday. Then came Thursday's two-inch rain.

"We got it in right before deadline last year," he said, "but I didn't have this many acres to plant."