US asks farmers: Can you plant 2 crops instead of 1?

Aug 30, 2022, 8:08 AM | Updated: 8:56 am
Jeff O'Connor poses for a photo at his farm, Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022, in Kankakee, Ill. A US Departm...

Jeff O'Connor poses for a photo at his farm, Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022, in Kankakee, Ill. A US Department of Agriculture move to change crop insurance rules to encourage farmers to grow two crops in a single year instead of one. Usually this means planting winter wheat in the fall, harvesting in May or June and then planting soybeans. The USDA is making it easier to obtain insurance, lessening the risk to farmers who make this choice.(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — There is only so much farmland in the United States, so when Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last spring prompted worries that people would go hungry as wheat remained stuck in blockaded ports, there was little U.S. farmers could do to meet the new demand.

But that may be changing.

Earlier this summer, the U.S. Department of Agriculture instituted new policies to encourage American farmers to begin growing two crops on one piece of land, one after the other, a practice known as double-cropping. By changing insurance rules to lessen the risk of growing two crops, the USDA hopes to significantly increase the amount of wheat that U.S. farmers could grow every year, lessening the reliance on big wheat producers like Ukraine and Russia and eliminating bottlenecks.

The idea is an intriguing development from the Ukraine war that hasn’t received widespread attention. As fall approaches, it’s unclear how many farmers will actually try the new system, but some who already grow two crops say it’s something farmers should consider.

“I think it’s a great idea,” said Illinois farmer Jeff O’Connor, who has double-cropped for years and hosted President Joe Biden at an event in May to promote efforts to increase food production. “How successful it will be, I don’t know.”

Even if the effort is only moderately successful, agriculture groups are hoping for new ways of meeting a growing global demand for food while generating more profit for farmers amid high fertilizer and fuel costs. As Andrew Larson with the Illinois Soybean Association put it, “It removes some of the hurdles and provides a lot more flexibility.”

In 2020, the U.S. exported wheat valued at $6.3 billion. The U.S. along with Russia, Australia and Canada usually lead the world in wheat exports, with Ukraine typically ranked fifth, though its shipments will drop this year due to the war.

Double-cropping isn’t new in parts of the South and southern Midwest, which have the key advantage of longer growing seasons. Those warmer temperatures let farmers squeeze in a fall planting of one crop — usually winter wheat — that is dormant over the winter and then grows and can be harvested in late spring, just as farmers plant a second crop — typically soybeans.

The problem comes when cool weather delays the spring harvest of wheat, which in turn delays the planting of soybeans. And that’s where the USDA’s new effort could ease the risk of a costly planting backup.

The USDA’s Risk Management Agency would streamline crop insurance approvals for farmers planting a second crop in more than 1,500 counties where double-cropping seems viable. The agency also would work with crop insurers and farm groups to promote a greater availability of coverage in other counties.

In announcing its effort, the USDA said it was aiming to “stabilize food prices and feed Americans and the world amidst continuing challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic, supply chain disruptions, and the invasion of Ukraine by Russia.”

The USDA didn’t mention climate change, but the agency and other experts have long said warming temperatures will spur farmers to rethink what they grow and how.

The new program is focused more on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which is a leading supplier of wheat to people in Africa and the Middle East. After the invasion, wheat prices nearly doubled to over $12 a bushel, though since then prices have steadily dropped as supply concerns have eased, in part because of agreements that have allowed for the export of some Ukraine wheat.

The USDA didn’t respond to a request for details about how many farmers the agency hopes will begin double-cropping or how much U.S production could increase.

Farmers who double-crop often have smaller crops, but two smaller crops would still be significantly larger than an individual crop.

A study published in August by the University of Illinois and Ohio State University found that was certainly the case this year, as high wheat prices resulted in double-cropped land in southern Illinois bringing a projected $251 per acre return for wheat and soybeans, which is $81 higher than a stand-alone soybean crop. The double-crop benefit was less dramatic in other parts of the state and could be less if wheat prices drop.

Mark Lehenbauer, who raises livestock and grows row crops near Palmyra, Missouri, said he’s double-cropped for years and finds it reliably profitable. Still, he cautions that there is a years-long learning curve as farmers learn how to accomplish the task of planting one crop just as they need to harvest another.

And Lehenbauer acknowledged that many farmers may simply be reluctant to take on the added risks or extra workload.

“There are a lot of extra steps in there,” Lehenbauer said. “It adds some complexity.”

Ultimately, the biggest factor behind whether farmers begin growing an extra crop of wheat is what price they can get for the crop, said Pat Westhoff, director of the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute at the University of Missouri. Although prices have dropped from the peaks soon after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, they remain at the still profitable level of nearly $8 a bushel.

“It really comes down to where wheat prices go in the future,” he said. “Even with the drop in prices we’ve seen, wheat prices are pretty high so there should be a little more incentive for wheat double cropping in this next year than there has been.”

___

Follow Scott McFetridge on Twitter: https://twitter.com/smcfetridge

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris visits Zojoji Temple on the day of the state funeral for former P...
Associated Press

VP Harris seeks computer chip partners in Tokyo

TOKYO (AP) — Armed with a new law that boosts U.S. support for computer chip manufacturing, Vice President Kamala Harris is seeking new investments and partnerships as she sits down with Japanese technology executives. Harris was meeting with the CEOs on her last full day in Tokyo on Wednesday, a reflection of the administration’s focus […]
18 hours ago
Chicago police respond to a shooting near the CPD Homan Square facility Monday, Sept. 26, 2022.  On...
Associated Press

Chicago police charge man who infiltrated SWAT training

CHICAGO (AP) — Chicago police filed eight felony counts Tuesday against a man who climbed five stories of a fire escape to infiltrate a police facility while officers were undergoing a SWAT training exercise. Donald Patrick, 47, of Waukegan was charged with five counts of aggravated assault on a peace officer and three counts of […]
18 hours ago
This undated photo provided by the Nevada Department of Corrections shows Porfirio Duarte-Herrera, ...
Associated Press

Inmate serving life for fatal Vegas bombing escapes prison

LAS VEGAS (AP) — A 42-year-old convicted bombmaker serving life in prison for a deadly 2007 explosion outside a Las Vegas Strip resort has escaped from a Nevada state prison, officials said Tuesday. Officials realized Porfirio Duarte-Herrera was missing during a morning head count at Southern Desert Correctional Center near Las Vegas, and a state […]
18 hours ago
Associated Press

Judge green lights defamation lawsuit against Fox, Lou Dobbs

NEW YORK (AP) — A defamation lawsuit against Fox Corp., Fox News Network and Lou Dobbs can proceed toward trial, a judge ruled Monday after concluding that a Venezuelan businessman had made sufficient claims of being unfairly accused of trying to corrupt the 2020 U.S. presidential election to be permitted to gather more evidence. The […]
18 hours ago
Associated Press

Alabama prisoners refusing to work in 2nd day of protest

MONTGOMERY, Ala (AP) — Alabama inmates were in their second day of a work strike Tuesday, refusing to labor in prison kitchens, laundries and factories to protest conditions in the state’s overcrowded, understaffed lock-ups. Prisoners including those who provide food, laundry and janitorial services refused to show up for work at major state prisons, leaving […]
18 hours ago
Follow @ktar923...
Sponsored Content by Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet can improve everyday life

Quantum Fiber supplies unlimited data with speeds up to 940 mbps, enough to share 4K videos with coworkers 20 times faster than a cable.

Sponsored Articles

...
Sanderson Ford

Don’t let rising fuel prices stop you from traveling Arizona this summer

There's no better time to get out on the open road and see what the beautiful state of Arizona has to offer. But if the cost of gas is putting a cloud over your summer vacation plans, let Sanderson Ford help with their wide-range selection of electric vehicles.
(Courtesy Condor)...
Condor Airlines

Condor Airlines shows passion for destinations from Sky Harbor with new-look aircraft

Condor Airlines brings passion to each flight and connects people to their dream destinations throughout the world.
...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Most plumbing problems can be fixed with regular maintenance

Instead of waiting for a problem to happen, experts suggest getting a head start on your plumbing maintenance.
US asks farmers: Can you plant 2 crops instead of 1?