11:16 AM

Rain, rain go away: Farmers want to plant someday

“Historic” delays in planting lead to tough decisions

Relentless rain across much of the country has been an inconvenience and annoyance for many people.

But for farmers in Ohio, the Midwest and other parts of the country, it is threatening their livelihood, according to experts at The Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CFAES).

The last 12 months have been the wettest on record in Ohio, and that has put farmers across the state so far behind in planting corn and soybeans that some are deciding not to plant and to file an insurance claim instead.

On June 14, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine requested that the U.S. Department of Agriculture issue a disaster designation for Ohio to make assistance available to farmers as they deal with continuing heavy rainfall.

As of June 17, only 68 percent of Ohio’s corn crop and 46 percent of Ohio’s soybean crop had been planted, according to USDA Crop Progress reports. Typically by now, Ohio’s corn acres have been entirely planted and nearly all of the state’s soybean acres have been planted.

The delay in planting adds an extra layer of strain on farmers already facing low prices for corn and soybeans, low animal feed supplies and uncertainty about trade relief aid.

“The delays in planting and effects on in-field crops of forages and wheat are historic,” said Greg LaBarge, an agronomic field specialist with Ohio State University Extension, CFAES’ outreach arm.

“The agricultural community is facing many important decisions in light of the relentless precipitation that has occurred this spring,” he said. “The decisions farmers make in the coming weeks will have a lasting impact, affecting management decisions for the next year.”

While there’s still time in the growing season to plant soybeans, how many acres will be planted in Ohio and across the Midwest is uncertain. Much of that hinges on the weather. Above-average rainfall is predicted for the rest of the month, and national predictions call for July and August to be wetter than normal across much of the country.

Livestock producers also have been affected by the historic rains, which have left supplies of hay – a primary livestock food source - at record low levels in Ohio and across the Midwest, said Stan Smith, an Ohio State Extension program assistant in agriculture and natural resources.

Some Ohio farmers who typically plant corn, soybeans or both could choose not to plant either and instead, file insurance claims so that they can gain some earnings rather than risk planting in mud.

Up to one-third of Ohio’s acres that normally have soybeans or corn growing on them could be left unplanted, said Ben Brown, manager of CFAES’ Farm Management Program. Much of the unplanted acres will be in northwest Ohio, the region of the state that has been the hardest hit by rain this spring.

“We want to plant. That’s what we do as farmers,” Brown said. “So it’s a ridiculously hard decision not to plant.”

In Fulton County, in the far northwestern corner of Ohio, it’s quite possible that about half of the typically planted 160,000 acres of corn and soybeans won’t be planted this year, said Eric Richer, an Ohio State Extension educator.

A lot of Fulton County farmers will file insurance claims for prevented planting, but the ones who need the corn and soybeans to feed their livestock are less likely to do that, Richer said.

“They’re the farmers under the most stress right now,” he said.

But planting and finances are on everyone’s mind.

“People are anxious,” Richer said. “We’re seeing farmers with a tremendous amount of financial, mental and even physical stress over the delayed planting this year.”