WHITELAND, Ind. (AP) — A top federal farm official who spent two days touring drought-stricken Indiana farms said Thursday that most of the state's corn crop is in such bad shape that this week's rainfall likely won't boost yields.
U.S. Agriculture Department Undersecretary Michael Scuse told local farmers who gathered at Kelsay Farms, a seventh-generation family farm south of Indianapolis, that 71 percent of Indiana's corn crop is in poor to very poor condition due to drought and heat stress.
Scuse said rain this week provided little or no help because most of Indiana's cornfields have already passed through the crucial pollination stage when kernels form on each plant's young cobs, a process the drought and heat stunted.
"I don't care how much rain you get. You can't put kernels on that," Scuse said, holding up an ear of corn picked at Kelsay Farms that was virtually devoid of butter-yellow kernels.
Although the corn crop can't be helped, rain in the coming weeks could still help soybean fields, he said.
Scuse's visit to Kelsay Farms, about 15 miles south of Indianapolis, came a few hours after the release of the latest U.S. Drought Monitor report, which showed that almost 54 percent of Indiana is now in extreme drought.
The lingering drought has led the USDA to declare a natural disaster for 80 of Indiana's 92 counties.
Scuse said he visited farms in Indiana, Michigan and Ohio this week partly to get a firsthand look at drought damage and speak to farmers about what the agency might do to help them.
His Indiana visit, which included stops Wednesday in northern Indiana, was also part of the Obama administration's push for Congress to pass a five-year $500 billion farm and nutrition bill awaiting action in the House.
Scuse said the bill contains provisions funding additional disaster programs that could help farmers, particularly dairy and livestock farmers suffering from the nation's worst drought in 25 years.
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