Iowa farmers raced to plant as many acres as possible last week ahead of heavy rainfall that forced further planting delays and made prevented planting a very real possibility in some areas.

“This looks like the last good day for a couple of weeks if people want to get any planting done,” Sam Bennett, an Ida County Farm Bureau member, said May 16. “It looks like it could be the first of June before we get back in.”

Iowa County Farm Bureau member Brian Strasser said farmers are considering prevent plant on some fields, especially those close to rivers and streams that aren't drying out. "That's just not typical at all around here," he said.

Even after a couple of long days on the planter, overall planting progress in Iowa and the Midwest is unlikely to catch up to normal, said Sam Funk, director of agriculture analytics and research for the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation (IFBF).

“If you look at the record year for prevented planting in Iowa (2013), we are going to be very near — or behind — that pace,” he said. In 2013, corn planting in Iowa progressed from 15% to 71% during one week in mid-May and soybeans went from 1% to 40% planted over two weeks. This year’s weather forecasts don’t look favorable for similar progress, Funk pointed out.

That means farmers could be facing tough decisions in the coming weeks. The final crop insurance planting date for Iowa is May 31. After that, farmers lose 1% of their revenue guarantee each day. The final planting date for soybeans is June 15.

After June 1, Iowa farmers with unplanted corn acres have three choices: plant corn as soon as possible with a reduced guarantee, shift to soybeans with full insurance coverage or apply for prevented planting.

Qualified acres are insured at 55% of their original guarantee for corn and 60% for soybeans.

IFBF has posted a decision tool to help farmers consider which option is best for them at, Funk said. The tool considers yield reductions, input costs and potential returns for late-planted crops compared to the prevented planting option.

“We want to summarize the relevant information Iowa farmers need to make the best decision for their operation,” said Funk.

For example, the tool shows a potential prevented planting payment of $316.80 per acre for corn on a farm with a 180-bushel actual production history (APH) and 80% crop insurance revenue coverage. Net income, excluding land costs, equals $285.30 per acre. Meanwhile, projected net income for corn planted June 15 is $44.39, not including land costs, according to the decision tool.

For soybeans with a 50-bushel APH and 80% coverage, the tool estimates net income of $186.16 for prevented planting compared to $32.54 for soybeans planted June 30.