LINCOLN, NEB. – The Nebraska and Wyoming Farm Bureaus are urging the United Stated Department of Agriculture (USDA) to ensure crop insurance will cover crop losses experienced by farmers impacted by the July 17 irrigation tunnel collapse that has prevented irrigators on the Goshen Irrigation District in Wyoming and the Gering-Ft. Laramie Irrigation District in Nebraska from receiving irrigation water during a critical time in the growing season.
In an Aug.16 letter to USDA Under Secretary of Farm Production and Conservation Bill Northey and USDA Risk Management Agency Administrator Martin Barbre, Nebraska Farm Bureau President Steve Nelson and Wyoming Farm Bureau President Todd Fornstrom urged the agency to “thoroughly examine the tunnel collapse” and “provide crop insurance coverage for those Nebraska and Wyoming farmers affected by the loss of irrigation.”
Questions have existed about whether federal crop insurance would cover associated losses due to the unknown surrounding the cause of the tunnel collapse. The USDA Risk Management Agency has yet to make an official decision.
“It seems this situation, which will cause considerable crop losses outside of the control of those who farm within the 100,000 plus acre area impacted, is precisely why federal crop insurance was created,” wrote Nelson and Fornstrom.
The disruption affects approximately 107,000 acres of crops, or about 35 percent of the total acres irrigated by surface water in the North Platte River Valley in both states. Approximately 55,000 acres are affected in Nebraska and 52,000 acres in Wyoming. With temporary repairs to the tunnel underway, it’s unclear as to when water will return to the system. The Universities of Nebraska and Wyoming recently issued a report noting the economic impact of the tunnel collapse could climb as high as $89 million if the loss of irrigation water results in a total crop failure.
Nelson and Fornstrom recently toured the affected area to visit with farmers and to see the tunnel collapse site.
“We can tell you the farmers we spoke to, who are already dealing with poor economic conditions, are relying on federal crop insurance to cover their losses. We hope the Risk Management Agency will use all its authority to protect the farmers who have been impacted by this disastrous event,” wrote the Farm Bureau leaders.
In Nebraska, a website has been established by Platte Valley Bank and the Oregon Trail Foundation as a relief fund for farmers impacted by the tunnel collapse. All funds will go towards the effort to restore water and support local affected agriculture families. Donations can be made at pvbank.com/give/
In Wyoming, a donation account has been established at First State Bank to support the repair efforts in response to the irrigation canal collapse. One hundred percent of the donations will be allocated to the Goshen Irrigation District to support their work in repairing the tunnel and the canal damage. Donations can be sent to: First State Bank, P.O. Box 1098, Torrington, WY 82240. Checks should be made out to: Goshen Irrigation District Donation Account.
Due to the remote location of the tunnel collapse, the Goshen County Farm Bureau in Wyoming is also collecting donations to help cover food costs for tunnel repair workers. Daily food costs are in the rage of $500 to $600. To donate, checks can be made to the Goshen County Farm Bureau and mailed to Lori Schafer, 5858 Road 33, Veteran, WY 82243.