June outlook not what farmers hoped for

A tractor and planter sit on the edge of a field unable to plant due to wet conditions. This field, south of Parker, is just one of countless that hasn’t been planted due to the overwhelming amounts of moisture this area has seen this spring. (Photo/Sarah Ebeling)

BROOKINGS — Spring weather is trying the patience of many South Dakota farmers as wet and cool conditions create planting delays across the state.

Laura Edwards, SDSU Extension State Climatologist referenced the June 2019 Climate Outlook released last week by the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center. “Potentially, east central and southeastern South Dakota could see as much as 3-inches of rainfall over the next two weeks,” Edwards said. “June’s climate outlook favors both wetter and colder conditions.”

Edwards explained several climate computer models have been pointing towards this pattern for the summer, and consensus is getting stronger.

“For the summer months of June, July and August, the continuation of this cooler and wetter pattern seems more likely across South Dakota,” Edwards said.

The area that is favored to be cooler than average stretches north to south through the Central U.S., from the Canadian border to Texas. “Odds are leaning towards wetter than average conditions across almost all of the lower 48 states,” Edwards said.

The exceptions are the Pacific Northwest, Southwest, upper Great Lakes and Northeast and Southeast.

It comes as no surprise that this amount of rainfall, in combination with cooler than average temperatures, are not favorable for spring planting and crop progress for area farmers. Edwards said that the current climate outlook, combined with wet soils from last fall, near record snowfall over the winter and rain and cool temperatures this spring have delayed field work and planting. 

“As of May 13, only four percent of the state’s corn crop was planted,” Edwards said, explaining that data from the last five years indicates on average, by mid-May in South Dakota, a little over half of the corn is planted. As of press time, those numbers had not increased much. 

“Wet soils are partly to blame for delayed planting, but cool soils have also challenged farmers this year,” she said.

The ideal soil temperature for planting and germination of corn is 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Eastern South Dakota just reached that benchmark around May 13-15, about 10 days to two weeks later than usual. “The cold temperatures May 17-19 brought soil temperatures down again into the mid to upper 40s for most locations,” Edwards said.

Planting progress is also behind five-year averages for other small grains, like spring wheat and oats. “Nearly 90 percent of these crops are typically planted by mid-May, but this year only 46 percent of spring wheat and 37 percent of oats were planted by mid-May,” Edwards said.

Because of the severity of spring flooding, Governor Kristi Noem is requesting a Presidential Disaster Declaration for the winter weather flood damage. 

Noem’s request is to help South Dakota local government entities, including Turner County’s, recover from its received property damage. 

The request is for FEMA assistance to help with repairs for damage done to both public property as well as to individual homes and businesses. A preliminary damage assessment indicates about $43 million in damage to public infrastructure in 58 counties and on three reservations. The preliminary damage assessment for individual assistance is about $3 million covering 16 counties and three reservations.

In a letter to President Trump, Noem wrote that “a historic severe winter storm of rare intensity” began in South Dakota March 13. She said the snow was followed by a rapid snowmelt and flooding. The severe weather continued through April 26.

“The winter weather and flooding caused many issues with public and private infrastructure throughout the state as well as the extreme emotional toll on impacted citizens,” wrote Noem. “Citizens continue to experience ongoing issues with their homes and businesses because of the flooding.”

Public property damage assistance is being requested for 59 South Dakota counties as well as three Indian Reservations. 

Individual damage assistance is being requested for the counties of: Bennett, Bon Homme, Brookings, Charles Mix, Dewey, Hamlin, Hutchinson, Kingsbury, Jackson, Mellette, Minnehaha, Oglala Lakota, Todd, Turner, Yankton, and Ziebach counties as well as the Cheyenne River, Pine Ridge, and Rosebud Indian Reservations.

Noem noted the severe weather impacted all parts of the state. The governor wrote that people had to be rescued from their flooded homes; city wastewater treatment plans and sewage lagoons were overwhelmed from high water; highways, ranging from the interstates to the county roads, were closed and damaged by both snow and water; power outages occurred in different parts of the state; and, the state’s agricultural industry was impacted by damage to fields and livestock.

In Turner County alone, assessed damage sits at over $5.5 million. 

In her letter to the President, the governor stressed that the impacts of this storm will be felt for a long time. She added that federal assistance is needed.

“South Dakotans pride themselves on being a hardy group of citizens, and we pull together to help one another, especially in times of disaster,” Noem wrote. “However, with the availability of federal assistance, combined with state, local, and voluntary assistance provided, it will help individuals, businesses, and government inch closer to recovering from this disaster.”

The governor’s request does not guarantee federal funding will be made available to South Dakota and its citizens. South Dakota last received an Individual Assistance declaration in 2011 for widespread damage from Missouri River flooding. The last Public Assistance declaration was granted in 2016 following a Christmas ice storm.

South Dakota currently has six open Presidential disaster declarations for other events and is working with FEMA on the recovery process for each of those disasters. 

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