Local farmers 'off to slow start'

Cary Ashby • May 14, 2019 at 11:00 AM

It’s prime planting season. But the problem is Mother Nature hasn’t been cooperating.

The weather pattern has been especially difficult this year as warm, sunny days start drying out fields only to be interrupted by showers again for the drying process to restart.

If farmers could plant beans and corn in the next week or so, “it would be just fine,” said Mike Gastier, extension educator for agriculture for the Huron County Ohio State University Extension Office in Norwalk.

“We are off to a slow start, but it’s too early to say we’re whipped.”

The prime planting season is considered between the last week of April and the third or fourth week of May.

“For corn, we’d like to be planted by the fifth of June. With soybeans, we have more time, but we’d like to be planted the 15th of June,” Gastier said.

After May 15, farmers begin losing an average of one bushel of corn per acre daily, said Sam Custer, the Darke County OSU extension educator.

At the start of this week, only 2 percent of corn in Ohio had been planted, well below the five-year average of 27 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Soybeans have a later cycle, but by this point in most years, 9 percent of the crop had been planted. So far only 1 percent has been planted this year.

“The stress level is extremely high. Patience is running thin. But there is still a possibility depending on the weather that we can have decent crops. Maybe not our top yields, but we can still have decent crops,” Suzanne Mills-Wasniak, the Montgomery County OSU extension educator, told the Dayton Daily News.

Combining not being able to plant during the prime season with the decline in the grain market and “plummeting” prices, Gastier said farmers face a “double whammy.” According to the Huron County extension office, the price for corn in Clarksfield as of Monday was $3.37 per bushel.

“Six years ago, we were approaching $8 a bushel. … The cost of production is about $3.70. It’s not a good scenario, but things are going to turn around,” Gastier said.

Since the grain price is “below the cost of production,” farmers “aren’t making any money,” he added. “We can’t even plant; it’s not good for the mental health of farmers.”

Ohio Farm Bureau spokesman Joe Cornely said farmers are in a “below break even” situation.

“You’re looking at this current trade dispute hammering the grain markets and so on the economic side, that's a huge worry for farmers,” he told the Dayton Daily News. “And then you throw in the fact that they can't get their crops in the ground and this is not a good time to be a farmer.”

Also, “while farmers are feeling the pain directly” of the current situation, Cornely said “the rural economy as a whole” is being impacted — from auto dealerships to factories that build farm equipment to ‘’the guy trying to sell tickets to the new ‘Avengers’ movie.”

“That income gets circulated through the local community and when farm incomes are hit, whether it’s because of a trade war, or bad weather or low prices, that whole rural economy is going to feel the pinch,” he added.

The only thing that farmers can do is wait and hope the situation will get better.

“It has to at some point,” Gastier said. “It will turn around; it will just take some time.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Dayton Daily News (TNS) contributed to this story.

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