Hailstorm 'really ugly' for farmers
Brothers Brian and Brent Buhr on Monday morning looked over a ruined corn field near Buffalo, N.D. Sixteen hours earlier the field held the potential for big yields and strong profits. But devastating hail Sunday evening changed all that. Now the...
Brothers Brian and Brent Buhr on Monday morning looked over a ruined corn field near Buffalo, N.D.
Sixteen hours earlier the field held the potential for big yields and strong profits.
But devastating hail Sunday evening changed all that. Now the field isn't worth harvesting, and even with insurance the Buhrs might not cover all their costs on it.
"I've had better days," Brent Buhr said.
It's too soon to tell how much damage was done by the storm, which brought heavy rains, strong winds and hail Sunday evening to Cass, Ransom, Sargent and Steele counties in North Dakota.
But hail damage was severe and unusually widespread.
"Normally you don't see hail in this big an area," said Ron Ness, Moorhead-based loss supervisor for Pro Ag, an insurance group with headquarters in Amarillo, Texas.
Ness toured fields Monday to get a better idea of the extent of the damage.
"Things just look really ugly," he said.
Gary Ihry of Ihry Insurance in Hope, N.D., said 40 or so farmers contacted his company about weather damage by noon Monday.
"I'm sure there will be a lot more," he said.
Most farmers have crop insurance, he said.
Farmers typically take out enough insurance to cover their cash operating costs, said Hope farmer Randy Richards, who suffered heavy hail damage.
Taking out insurance to cover all potential losses isn't feasible, he said.
Storm damage was particularly frustrating this year, he and other farmers said.
Crop prices are high and many fields had potentially good yields, a combination promising attractive profits.
"Farmers didn't want to collect on their insurance. They wanted to sell their crops," Ness said.
Brian Buhr said planting the family's corn cost about $200 per acre this year. If the weather had cooperated, the Buhrs hoped to gross at least $450 per acre.
The storm damaged most of the 6,400 acres farmed by the Buhr brothers and their father, Arnie.
They estimate only 900 to 1,000 acres might be worth harvesting.
"We've had hail before. But to have it on this scale is just unprecedented, in my experience," Brian Buhr said.
Fields around Hope and Colgate, both north of Buffalo, were stripped and flattened by hail that fell for five minutes at about 6 p.m.
Hope farmer Matt Roller said damage to his crops varied greatly.
"I had some fields that are totally lost, and others that had some damage," he said.
Fields with partial hail loss could sustain even bigger losses if damaged plants don't rebound, Richards said.
Colgate resident Heather Erickson and her family huddled in their basement during the storm, which destroyed hundreds of trees in town.
"There were big drifts of hail against the house afterward," she said.
Sunday's hailstorm, though costly and painful, is just part of farming, Brian Buhr said.
"If you can't live with it, you better find something else to do," he said.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Jonathan Knutson at (701) 241-5530