Georgia Farmers Having to Abandon Crops

Time has run out for many farmers who have decided to give up on some of their crops because of the drought. Now they must decide what to do next.

Roger Godwin of Grady County, in southwest Georgia, is no different. The time came last week for him to decide if he should try to save his corn. When he looked at the cornstalks, he was disappointed.

"Nothing, nothing," Godwin said as he felt several cornstalks to find ears of corn. "Nothing. Nothing."

A Moment of Truth

It was a moment of truth for Godwin. The time had come to put the corn out of its economic misery by mowing it down. "We went right at 10 weeks without a drop of rain during pollination time, when corn should have been 6 feet tall or better," he said. "Most of it is doing good to be 5 feet tall."

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Photo: Joe Courson

Some Georgia cornfields look deceptively healthy, but have almost no corn.

The Grady County farmer and an insurance company representative declared almost 90 percent of his corn too far gone to try to save. "It's a bad feeling, having to destroy it," he said, "because you put all your inputs (seed, fertilizer, etc.) into it."

The lingering drought destroyed the corn he worked long and hard to grow. Looking back, Godwin didn't have a fighting chance. His corn plants grew, but produced almost no corn. It looks deceptively healthy, tall and green. But it doesn't have nearly enough ears to make it economically feasible for him to even harvest the crop.

He would be lucky to harvest 18 bushels per acre. But he hasn't been lucky so far, and he doubts his corn would get enough rain if he decided to hang on. With such a poor yield, it would cost him more to harvest the crop than he would get when he sold it.

Insurance Won't Cover Costs

He'll get some insurance money, but he still loses in the end. "I'm not going to cover all my costs," he said.

Godwin hopes to recover some of his losses by salvaging the remaining fertilizer he intended the corn to use. He hopes now it will grow grain sorghum. Then again, the drought already claimed one crop on his land, and it could easily destroy the next one, too. Godwin accepted his insurance loss appraisal for his corn.

Many other Georgia farmers are having to do the same.

Now they have to decide what to do with their insured cotton and peanut crops. Agricultural economists with the University of Georgia Extension Service tell farmers if they expect to produce 30 percent of a normal yield or less, seriously consider the insurance settlement.

Between 31 percent and 50 percent of normal crop is a tough call. Farmers must consider the quality of the crop, the market price at harvest and how much money is needed to finish the crop. If a farmer thinks he can make more than 51 percent of his normal peanut or cotton yield, he should strongly consider growing out the crop.