Farmer safety net growing more costly as climate changes

As cool weather sets in to the US Midwest, much of the farm state of Iowa is suffering from moderate to severe drought, but for farmer Brent Drey, another worrisome weather trend is also top of mind: Over the past few decades, the Drey family farm has noticed an uptick in rainfall, which often comes down so hard and fast that the moisture actually does more harm than good.

“There are times, especially in the spring, where it can dump three or four inches in a matter of an hour or two,” Drey said. “That really makes a mess for any farmer.” 

Drey Farms, which grows 3,000 acres of mostly corn and soybeans near Sac City, Iowa, has sometimes lost production due to excess moisture, according to Drey. Flooding, heavy rains and excess snow melt can complicate planting, and drown out or sicken maturing crops as wet conditions lead to elevated levels of mold, fungus, and toxins.

For Drey and other farmers who suffer production losses due to excess moisture, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has long offered a crop insurance program to cover their losses.