Seeking federal relief for Ohio farmers, Gov. Mike DeWine sent a formal letter June 14 to the United States Department of Agriculture declaring a state of disaster due to the recent weather conditions that are delaying crop production.
“The harsh reality for Ohio farmers is that many acres will remain unplanted,” DeWine states in a press release issued by his office. “Our dairy and livestock sectors also face serious forage and feed shortages. We recognize the tremendous challenges facing our agricultural community, and we are working to identify any and all sources of possible relief.”
According to the governor’s press release, since the fall of 2018, excessive rainfall has challenged Ohio farmers by creating poor field conditions to the point that some 2018 crops are still in the field and yet to be harvested. With the current weather and condition of fields, producers are dealing with field erosion, delayed field work and planting, challenges with manure applications, and concerns have been expressed by livestock producers over what is sure to be a short supply of forage.
“I visited with several farmers this week and saw firsthand the impact of this devastating rainfall. Fields are visibly filled with water and weeds instead of crops,” states Ohio Department of Agriculture Director Dorothy Pelanda in the press release.
Rob Leeds, The Ohio State University Extension Office Delaware County Agricultural and Natural Resources educator, brought in a team of experts Monday morning to update the Delaware County Board of Commissioners on the current farm conditions in the county.
“Looking last week statewide, 50% of the corn has been planted and 32% of the beans,” he told the board. “We had some opportunity last week to plant some. Eighty percent of our corn is in and about 60-65% of our beans are in.”
Leeds said he thought the planting was “pretty much done for this year” or at least it’s “getting real close.”
“The weather is the way it is going to be for the next two weeks. Rain is in the forecast every day this week until Friday, and then we have a break over the weekend,” he said. “Then we have rain coming in Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday of next week.
“That may be preventive planting by the time we get done with the next couple of weeks,” Leeds added.
Leeds said the numbers for this year are close to the ones for 2017. He said there were 38,000 acres of corn and 73,000 acres of beans harvested in the county.
“We’re looking at about 8,000 acres of idle corn and about 29,500 of beans,” he said. “That’s substantial when you talk about Delaware County, where about 160,000 to 170,000 acres are in, in agriculture row crop production.”
However, Leeds said the numbers don’t capture the hay crop.
“We have a lot of guys out there that have hay out, and we’ve already lost two cuttings (this year),” he said. “It’s going to be good and bad (for the market). The quality is going to drop quite a bit, prices are going to go up, but how much quantity are they going to have?”
Leeds said as he travels east and west in Delaware County, he sees that more crops have been planted, but northward he is seeing less. He said that “yields are going to be pretty variable.”
Walking the fields looking at the soil, Leeds said that the hard rain falls this year will have an impact on future crops. He said for many years, farmers have worked to condition the soil, but this year’s weather will impede that progress because once the soil dries out, it becomes very hard.
“In this one year we’ve not only taken a pounding with the flooding and erosion, but also a lot of our rains have been really hard. We’re seeing a lot of compaction that we haven’t seen before.”
According to Leeds, many farmers have crop insurance.
“It looks like Gov. DeWine is going to get Ohio declared a disaster area, so there will be some relief financially for farmers,” he said. “Keep in mind, insurance just like anything else, you’re basically covering your cost of production. Those guys will be better off, but as far as money for living expenses and stuff, they’re not going to have it.”
Leeds said he feels sorry for the support industries who are now sitting on seed, chemicals, and fertilizer in the warehouses that didn’t get put out.
“There is not a lot of discussion at the state level or federal level about relief for those types of operations,” he said. “It’s all weather-related.”
Delaware County is probably better off than most, even though we’re hurting,” he said. “You go west into Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, and it’s not good at all — they’re worst than us.”
Jacci Smith, an Ag, Natural Resources, and 4-H educator with The OSU Extension Delaware County, said she farms up north near Ashley and a little in Morrow County.
“We have 35% of our corn acres and 20% of bean acres in,” she told the board. “We’re barely halfway.”
Smith said the crops are planted, but the fields are currently under water.
“We got four inches over the weekend, and it’s forecasted to rain for the next seven days again,” she said. “That definitely puts a damper on things.”
Smith said not only does she raise crops, but she also raises sheep and cattle, and she is finding herself short on hay because of being behind on cuttings.
“We actually donated 45 bails of round bails of hay out to Nebraska when they were having their flood issues,” she said. “We’re currently short on hay.”
Smith said it is the wettest 12 months on record in Ohio, and she has 40 acres of “beautiful alfalfa” sitting in the field that can’t be cut due to the wet weather.
“It’s very hard to sit in the house and watch it rain all day knowing that there is so much out there not planted and is not going to bring an income,” she said. “Right now, we would need at least a week or more (of dry weather) to get a good cutting of hay.”
Smith said that the producers depending on corn crops to feed livestock are the ones taking twice the hit, because they don’t have corn for feed nor corn to sell.
“A lot of our livestock farmers that I know of and a lot of my sheep producer friends across the entire state and nation are buying as much corn as they can right now, because we know that price is going to skyrocket.”
Contact D. Anthony Botkin at 740-413-0902. Follow him on Twitter @dabotkin.