Missouri officials pushed this week for an extension to file paperwork needed for farmers to receive crop insurance, coverage the governor and attorney general say is necessary amid heavy rainfall and flooding.
Attorney General Chris Koster filed a lawsuit after the U.S. Department of Agriculture notified the state Wednesday that the agency had denied Gov. Jay Nixon's request for an extension.
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At issue was a final deadline that day for some northwest Missouri farmers to file acreage reports required for them to receive crop insurance, which provides coverage in case weather or other conditions hurt crops.
State officials say severe rainfall and flooding this year meant farmers delayed planting and consequently missed the filing deadline.
"The USDA should not punish farmers whose planting was delayed by unexpected rain and flooding by enforcing an arbitrary deadline," Koster said in a statement. "Millions of dollars in Missouri agriculture is at risk, and we will fight to make sure these resources are protected."
His lawsuit asks a federal court to require that the agriculture agency give farmers 15 additional days to file reports.
The federal agriculture department says by law it cannot extend the deadline, but said it will work with farmers to help them maintain coverage.
One Missouri farmer said planting this summer has been a challenge. Rogersville-area farm owner Keith Baxter told the Springfield News-Leader he managed to file his acreage report on time only because he planted 85 percent of his available crop land.
"At this time, it's not worth the risk," Baxter told the paper.
Nixon said in a statement that about 60 percent of producers have not yet filed reports. He has encouraged farmers to keep filing their paperwork while the lawsuit is processed.
This story has been corrected to show that the U.S. Department of Agriculture notified the state that the agency was denying an extension, but did not do so through a letter.
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