Apples Get Hit by Mother Nature Twice in One Year

(MONDAMIN, IA) Most of the corn and soybean crops in Iowa have been completely lost to the drought, but one apple farmer says he's been concerned about his crops since April.

His crop was badly damaged because of the freeze in April and the drought has only added to the problem.

"There's hardly any apples on these trees, and the ones that are here, are very small," says Jim Small, an apple farmer in Mondamin.

Back in April, Small was concerned about his apple trees, because a freeze warning threatened his crop's well-being.

"If you look at the trees behind me, you can see there's not a lot of apples on them, and none of these trees have been picked. So this is what were left with, down here in these valley orchards. I have one orchard on the hill, and that one survived," he says.

That's because, when a freeze comes through, cold air settles - hitting the valleys hardest.
Then came the drought, and Small's apples were affected by that as well.

"Just because the moisture is not there for the apple to grow. The only moisture that the apple grew with was the deeper roots, were still in moist dirt, and it was pulling the moisture up," Small says.

So his apples are small, but Jim tends to look on the bright side, he says they are a lot sweeter. But like many farmers in Siouxland, Jim is left with almost nothing, just one third of his crop.

To add to his problems, he says because his apples are a specialty crop here in Iowa, federal crop insurance isn't offered.

"There's nothing that we can come back on. Basically the ones that don't have any apples that are your normal commercial growers, they're going around looking to buy apples, just so they can provide for their customers. But they also have to try and make a living. Your insurance and your taxes and your utilities, they keep coming every month, whether you've got the money there or not," Small says.

After 35 years of apple farming, he's never seen a year quite this bad.

He hopes that next season will be a better year for apple farmers, but he's still gotta get through that frost. If the new farm bill passes through congress, Small hopes specialty crops, like apples, will be covered.