The drought's impact on crop production and waterway use across Missouri, Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin have highlighted the need to improve crop-insurance programs, says National Corn Growers Association President Leon Corzine.

“The drought across these areas is a significant weather event for a lot of our producers,” he notes. “Between the increased energy needs for planting, fertilizing and eventual harvest, and the increasing gasoline prices, this has been the most expensive corn crop we have ever planted. Our farmers are putting more at risk every year and the drought highlights the need for crop-insurance policies that offer greater protection.”

According to the Risk Management Agency’s Drought Monitor, Corn Belt states are seeing anything from abnormally dry conditions to severe and extreme drought conditions. The drought is impacting parts of the Missouri, Mississippi and Ohio rivers. According to commodity professionals and barge-shipping officials, low water levels are preventing towboats and barges from traveling down the river, delaying shipments of commodities, petroleum products, coal and chemicals.

Missouri Governor Roy Blunt, is working to have most of the state’s counties declared agricultural-disaster areas, which he said would help farmers become eligible for low-interest loans. USDA Secretary Mike Johanns has already declared all but one of Illinois’ counties disaster areas.

Sam Willett, NCGA’s senior director of public policy, says the drought’s impact on farm income underscores the importance of affordable and effective crop insurance. “This is one of those years where federal crop insurance can provide critical protection against substantial losses,” he notes. “We continue to work for additional improvements in crop insurance and other risk management tools."

Although the drought conditions have been the most severe in central and eastern Illinois, central and northeastern Missouri and western Iowa, other areas have felt the impact early on, resulting in reduced corn and other crop yields from last year’s levels.

According to USDA, corn growers will see production drop to 10.35 billion bushels, down 12 percent from last year but up 3 percent from 2003. Yields across most of the Corn Belt are expected to average 139.2 bushels an acre, down 21.2 bushels from 2004's record-setting yields. 

National Corn Growers Association