The number of acres that American farmers are unable to plant this year due to wet weather may exceed 10 million acres, the highest number reported in recent years, Agriculture Undersecretary for Farm Production and Conservation Bill Northey said today.

The number of acres that farmers have reported as unplantable in previous years has ranged from 2 million to 10 million acres, Northey said, adding that he expects the number of acres reported this year to be “many multiples” of the lower figure and “at least the high end of what the previous range was.”

Northey spoke to reporters in a telephone call with officials of the Farm Service Agency, the Risk Management Agency, and the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

A USDA survey of farmers’ planting intentions released last week has been criticized as out of date and inaccurate, and USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service has said that it will re-survey farmers on their planting intentions.

Northey said he did not know when NASS would conduct that survey, but noted that his agencies deal with actual planting data, not intentions.

USDA has already processed claims for more than $151 million in prevented planting and the total claims are likely to reach more than $1 billion, the officials said.

Northey and Natural Resources Conservation Service Chief Matthew Lohr both said they would encourage farmers to plant cover crops if cash crops cannot be planted. Northey also pointed out that if farmers want to be eligible for the Market Facilitation Program that is intended to address the loss of international markets due to trade conflicts, the acres must be planted.

Northey repeated Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue’s statements that farmers will receive a minimal payment for cover crop acres.