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Local farmer: Planting corn now 'a definite gamble this year'

By DON HOHLER • Jun 19, 2019 at 9:00 PM

Farmers in Huron Country agree on one thing: this is the wettest planting season in their memory. To make things worse, most of them said they feel time has run out as far as planting corn and if beans aren’t in the ground by next weekend, that crop also has been lost.

Neil and Justin Meyers farm 260 acres four miles south of Norwalk. The rest of the acreage that has been in the family name since the mid-1940s is rented out.

“The bottom line is there are not enough heat units to dry the ground so we can get machinery in the field,” Neil Meyers said. “The moisture makes it impossible to get anything planted. And adding to the problem is we are now seeing a bug problem, namely slugs that love damp ground. It first cropped up in the corn and now I understand some farmers had to re-plant beans because of the problem.”

Meyers doesn’t have current figures, but as of two weeks ago, his understanding was that only 50 percent of the corn in the county was planted. Probably no more than 35 percent of the beans were in the ground.

The unofficial deadline for corn in the ground is June 5. The deadline for beans is June 20.

If Meyers had a 100-acre field that could go to either beans or corn, he said he definitely would go to corn. His reasoning is that corn hasn’t been planted and that is going to make for a shortage in the long term. Proving that fact was the corn price, from $3.60 a bushel a couple weeks ago to $4.93 at the start of the week.

He was quick to add, however, “that June 5 deadline is past, making corn a definite gamble this late.”

Also falling behind due to the wet fields is the inter-seeding program, the drilling of beans in standing wheat that will produce a second crop.

“Everything that is planted, and that includes wheat, is really struggling as far as growth. Wheat does not look good. It needs sun and it needs sun quickly,” Meyers said. “Inter-seeding can be done as late as July, but when planting is done that late, the yield takes a major hit. Inter-seeding is a gamble in the first place, mainly because it is so weather-dependent. An early frost would really be a huge blow to farmers who planted anything late.”

Meyers said crop insurance could be the saving-grace for many farmers. That, and government subsidies.

“If farmer took out insurance and if they had laid some money aside for a spring like this, they probably will be able to struggle through,” he said

Farmers without insurance have no choice but to wait and hope for a dry pattern that will allow them to plant, Meyers said.

Some farmers are talking about going to hay. Meyers wasn’t sure that would be the way to go.

“Dry hay. Yes,” he said. “But, nothing is dry right now. Dry baled hay is going to be worth a lot of money this fall. But right now, because of the high moisture of the product, all farmers can do with the first cutting is store it in a silo. That first crop should have been bailed and in the barn three or four weeks ago.

“And, don’t forget, haying equipment is expensive. Most farmers don’t have that kind of equipment, so it would be quite an output of money with no reclaim of money that first year. It takes a year or two to get a decent stand of alfalfa.

“We need four or five days with no rain and some sun for us to get back in the field,” Meyers said. “And I am luckier than most. I have just one more field to plant. Everything else is in and up.”

Meyers talked about the farmers who work thousands of acres and how they might be better off than people think.

“Some of those big farmers have the manpower and the equipment to work around the clock if they get a break in the weather. I would bet with the size and number of drills they have, they could plant close to 1,000 acres in a 24-hour period. Maybe more. So they are not as bad off as people think. They put three or four of those big machines in a field and it does not take long.

“But, like everyone, they have to get back in that field to knife in nitrogen and spray for weed control,” he said. “I suppose they could go to the expense of using a plane and in that way stay off the ground. That all takes money, however.”

In the meantime, Meyers spends time in his shop working on his equipment.

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