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Lack of Rain Brings Weeds, Insects

July 21, 2000

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) _ A Plains drought has dried up soil, stunted corn stalks, helped more weeds grow in cornfields and brought on a particularly destructive corn crop insect.

Several farmers have complained that their herbicides are not working as well this year, causing more weeds, said Steve Gramlich, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Cooperative Extension Educator in North Platte.

Some western Nebraska farms are being hit hard with the western bean cutworm _ an aggressive insect that can destroy corn.

For many farmers, the weeds and the onslaught of the cutworm have just added to problems brought on by a drought that has reduced yields and increased costs.

The western bean cutworm, which thrives in dry weather and sandy soils, usually is found in Nebraska west of North Platte. But this year it has shown up in large numbers at least 150 miles further east, near Aurora and north into Plainview.

Byron Hoch, who farms near Bertrand, said he had to spray his several thousand acres of corn for the bug for the first time in the 26 years he’s been farming.

The spraying limited the damage to his crops, but was another cost in a tough year.

``We had to throw another unexpected expense at the corn crop,″ he said. ``That western bean cutworm _ you can lose a third of a crop in a hurry.

``It’s been a triple whammy this year. Nothing works.″

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WASHINGTON (AP) _ A farmers group says major changes in federal farm policy being pushed by two Republican lawmakers are inadequate.

The Rural America Prosperity Act offers to help farmers by allowing them to fully deduct the costs of their heath care; to exclude from the capital gains tax $500,000 from the sale of a farm or primary residence; and change some other business tax provisions.

``We must do more to bring prosperity to America’s farms, ranches and rural communities,″ said one of the bill’s sponsors, Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio.

National Farmers Union President Leland Swenson said the legislation introduced Wednesday by Boehner and Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana, the Republican chairman of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee, failed to offer the kind of help farmers really need.

The proposal ``does not address the biggest problem facing our nation’s farmers and ranchers: low prices,″ Swenson said. ``It does not promote rural development. It does not promote fair competition.″

``Without significant changes that influence price, competitive markets and a safety net, these proposals are false solutions to the real problems facing the family-sized operation,″ he added.

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