Farmers coping with stressful season


COLUMBUS (WCMH) — At the end of June farm fields across central and northern Ohio resembled ponds.

A hot, muggy July helped dry out the soils, but the heat added stress to crops planted at an exceptionally late date.

Farmers in the Midwest have dealt with challenging weather conditions since the start of the planting season, when repeated heavy rainfall sent rivers out of their banks and prevented farmers from getting into the fields.

Ben Brown, an agronomist with the Ohio State University College of Food, Agriculture, and Environmental Sciences said, “What we’re seeing in northwest Ohio, where we saw heavy rainfall, is small ears, short crops and heavy weeds.”

There are significant differences around the state, depending on local rainfall patterns, with a divide near the Interstate 70 corridor.

“South of I-70. the corn doesn’t look too bad. They got it in early. It’s maturing at a late pace,” said Brown. The northwestern part of the state was hit much harder by rain and flooding, where about 25 percent of the crops were not planted.

Some farmers took prevented-planting insurance for heavy rainfall and flooding to cover a portion of the costs.

Nationally, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Service Agency reported in early August that 19.3 million acres were not planted, including 11.2 million acres of corn and 4.4 million acres of soybeans.

Farmers in more than 40 Ohio counties are eligible to apply for assistance to cope with losses, after the USDA declared a zone of natural disaster related to extreme weather events this season.

“I’ve never seen this much crop not get planted,” said Fred Yoder, a fourth-generation farmer who tends to 2,000 acres in Union and Madison counties.

“We had to slam it in in a hurry, and if the Good Lord’s willing, we’ll have a crop. But it’s going to very difficult to get this crop to maturity.”

In Ohio and parts of the eastern Midwest, corn silking was two to three weeks behind schedule due to late planting. Heat stress in July further slowed crop development.

A grain shortage and supply shortfalls affects hay and grain produced to feed livestock.

Market volatility, tariffs, and falling prices have compounded the economic concerns of farmers, coupled with higher energy expenses associated with low yields.

As of mid-August, only 57 percent of Ohio’s corn crop and 53 percent of the soybeans were rated good to excellent. The only worse season in modern memory was the 2012 drought that caused plants to wilt in the fields.

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