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US breadbasket state Iowa faces crop losses from flooding

by Staff Writers
New York (AFP) June 17, 2008
Battered by torrential rains, the US breadbasket state of Iowa is battling flooding that could be devastating for this year's grain harvest, producers say.

"The damages are very extreme," said Don Roose, president of US Commodities, a research and brokerage firm based near the Iowa capital of Des Moines.

With 83 of the state's 99 counties declared a disaster area, Iowa, the leading US corn and soybean producing state, is the most hard-hit of nine central states pounded by days of heavy rains.

The deluge and a subsequent series of tornadoes and storms have stymied planting this year, forcing farmers to wait to plant or to replant fields that are flooded.

According to the Iowa Department of Agriculture, the wet weather as of last week had either prevented planting or drowned out nine percent of the state's corn crop and 20 percent of soybean crop.

That represents between 400,000 to 600,000 hectares (1.0 and 1.5 million acres) of corn and about 800,000 hectares (two million acres) of soybeans.

Iowa Governor Chet Culver estimated crop damage at one billion dollars.

At this time of year, Roose said, "planting should have been completed by now." He said the delay could cost crop-yield productivity.

The calendar is working against farmers, said David Miller, director of research and commodity services at the Iowa Farm Bureau.

"In the northern part of the state, we probably are really close to a stage where it makes no sense to plant corn because it will not mature before frost," Miller said.

"In the southern parts of the state, we can probably go until June 25 ... but typically it takes about seven to 10 days for the ground to dry adequately to be planted."

More than a third of Miller's already planted farm in the Des Moines region is currently under water.

For soybeans, planting can continue until early July. "The later we go the more probability that frost or summer problems damage those crops and yield definitely will be affected," he said.

Miller predicted the final tally of "up to 20 percent of Iowa grain crops lost to floods."

Roose called that forecast "severe," and said he saw a more modest loss of "probably close to 10 percent." When the waters recede, farmers will try to plant crops "but it will be late."

Investors in the Chicago commodity futures market already have priced in a smaller harvest.

Since early June, the price of a bushel (25 kilograms) of corn has climbed more than 1.50 dollars to a record high of seven dollars. Soybean futures have seen a similar surge and are trading at more than 15 dollars.

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Panic over delayed rainfall grips northern Nigeria
Kano (AFP) June 17, 2008
Farmers and agronomists in northern Nigeria said Tuesday they fear this year's late rainfall may hurt harvests and worsen the food shortage in the region.

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