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Flooding keeps many local farmers from planting crops

By Tom Jackson • Jul 2, 2019 at 8:00 AM

It sure seems like a disaster for local farmers.

Following weeks of heavy rain that have blocked many farmers from being able to plant crops, Ohio politicians have been asking the secretary of agriculture, Sonny Perdue, to declare Ohio a disaster zone, qualifying Ohio producers for financial help.

The requests have come from politicians such as U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and U.S. Rep. Bob Latta (R-Bowling Green).

On Saturday, Latta visited Keith Truckor Farms in Metamora to see the impact of heavy rains on farms in the region. Truckor showed the congressman around his fields and the two discussed the options available to farmers, including crop insurance and late planting.

“The impact this rain has had on our district’s farmers is the worst I have ever seen,” Latta said. “It isn’t only our farmers that are affected – this tough season has had a ripple effect on agribusiness across the board. Thank you to Keith Truckor for illustrating what the weather means for his crops and how he’s moving forward. I will be getting back in touch with Secretary Perdue on Monday, and will continue advocating for those affected until they get the resources they need.”

Latta has been in frequent contact with farmers across Northwest and West Central Ohio about the disruption in this planting season and continues to advocate for them with the governor’s office and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, most recently with formal letters to Perdue and Bill Northey, the U.S. under secretary of agriculture. 

Meanwhile in a June 25 letter to Perdue, the Ottawa County commissioners — Mark Coppeler, Mark Stahl and Donald Douglas — offered startling numbers on how torrential rains have affected county farmers.

“Ottawa County farmers have planted only 4 percent of the corn and 3 percent of the soybeans this year,” they wrote. “Additionally, there are less than 100 acres of vegetables planted and peach orchards are being damaged by the excessive rain. Furthermore, farmers have lost 96 percent of the winter wheat and 98 percent of the alfalfa. Ottawa County fields are barren and abandoned this year.”      

The situation is much the same in Erie County, said Eric Dodrill, district director for Erie Soil & Water Conservation District.

Probably only about 50 percent of the corn has been planted, he said. And many of the fields that were planted in Groton Township are now underwater because of the recent wave of heavy rain, he said.

“From the agricultural perspective, it’s definitely disastrous to the local economy,” Dodrill said. “If you can’t plant it, you can’t harvest it.”

The Erie Soil & Water Conservation District surveyed 464 farm fields and determined that 44 percent of the county’s farmland has not been planted, said Breann Hohman, the district’s watershed coordinator.

Hohman said if the Huron River is used to separate the eastern and western parts of the county, the survey showed 34 percent of the west is unplanted, but 60 percent of the east side hasn’t been planted. While all of the county has gotten plenty of rain, the rain has been especially heavy in the east, she said. 

The problems caused by heavy rains extend over much of the state, Portman and Brown wrote in their letter, sent to Perdue on Friday.

“According to the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), as of June 16, 2019, only 68 percent of Ohio’s corn and 46 percent of Ohio’s soybeans have been planted, compared to this time last year when Ohio corn and soybean planting rates were at 100 percent and 94 percent, respectively,” they wrote. “Farmers in the wettest counties are now faced with the reality that many acres will likely go unplanted.”

Brown told reporters last week he’s received no response yet from Perdue. Given the urgency of the situation, the U.S. Department of Agriculture needs to respond quickly, Brown said.

“You know, some will not even get their crops in the ground this year,” Brown said.

Brown said while no single weather event can be tied to climate change, the extremes in weather — heavy rain, many fires, plenty of tornadoes — are examples of the extreme weather that climate change generates.

There is a broad consensus of science on climate change, which President Trump is trying to discredit, Brown said.

On Friday, Portman visited Mike Farm Enterprises in Dayton and participated in an agriculture roundtable to hear about the issues impacting farmers in Southwest Ohio. Agriculture is one of Ohio’s most important industries, contributing more than $100 billion to the state’s economy.

“I enjoyed my time today talking with local farmers in Southwest Ohio,” Portman said. “We discussed a number of issues, including how the excessive amounts of rain this year has prohibited farmers from getting crops in the ground, addressing the threat to livestock posed by black vultures, and how the economy and trade issues are impacting crop prices. Agriculture is one of Ohio’s most important industries, contributing more than $100 billion to our economy and putting food on the table for millions in our state and around the world.”

Ohio Agriculture Director Dorothy Pelanda also sent a letter toPerdue, supporting Gov. Mike DeWine's request for a secretarial disaster designation and asking for consideration of specific recommendations regarding Ohio farmers.

DeWine and Pelanda have been meeting with farmers across the state. As a result of these conversations, Pelanda asked Perdue to consider specific changes, including:

• Provide certain exemptions in policies regarding prevent plant acres and cover crops

• Change in policies for beginning farmers

• Provide assistance for planting of cover crops for erosion control and reduced weed pressure purposes

"Farmers are telling us this is the worst year they have ever experienced," Pelanda said. "We need to help our Ohio farmers get through this devastating time and try to lessen the far-reaching impact this will have on agricultural businesses and the state's economy."

Pelanda praised DeWine's initial step to request a secretarial disaster designation from USDA in his letter to Perdue on June 14.

"This is an unprecedented situation, at least in my lifetime in Ohio," DeWine said. "We hope to work with the federal government to make things easier for these farmers."

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