Heavy rain flooded a low spot in this soybean field along Hussey Road in Greene County over the weekend. The above average rainfall has pressured farmers who are already stressed with low crop prices, many of whom have not had dry enough ground to plant. TY GREENLEES / STAFF
Photo: Ty Greenlees
Photo: Ty Greenlees

Farmers remain optimistic as local congressmen request more aid

Area farmers are expecting already lower yields to drop again if the rain expected this week causes more flooding, preventing farmers from planting the rest of their soybeans and drowning out already planted crops.

More than 26 inches of rain has fallen in Dayton so far this year, up from an average 19 inches. Already this week more than 2 inches of rain has fallen in the city and others north of Dayton saw more. Some places in the Miami Valley could get another couple inches from thunderstorms by the end of today, with potential for heavy flooding, said Storm Center 7 Meteorologist Dontae Jones.

There will be one dry day Friday before rain returns Saturday, Jones said, which isn’t enough time for fields to dry out for planting.

“I got within five acres of corn and five acres of beans. (The fields) are so wet that it just isn’t going to happen, pretty much just given up on that,” said Brian Harbage, a Clark County farmer.

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Harbage is one of many farmers in western Ohio who struggled to get crops into the ground this year creating record planting delays.

Only 68 percent of corn and and 46 percent of soybeans had been planted in the state by Monday. Usually all corn and nearly all soybeans crops are in the ground and farmers are done spraying the weeds and applying food sources for the plants.

Ohio Farm Bureau spokesman Ty Higgins estimates that only 55 percent of normal corn acres were actually planted by Monday because the survey this week asked farmers to base their completed number off how many acres they intended to plant. If they had half their acres left to plant but were going to take prevent plant instead, they would record 100 percent completed.

Local congressmen ask for federal help

Those farmers who had to take prevent plant insurance or who didn’t have the insurance and still couldn’t plant their fields could find some relief if Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue answers a request from Ohio’s U.S. House delegation to raise prevented planting payment rates from 55 percent to 90 percent. The 16-member delegation, including Democrats and Republicans, also asked Perdue to remember the Ohio farmers when doling out more than $3 billion of disaster money.

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“These farms face heavy losses and possible bankruptcy if nothing is done to assist them,” the group wrote.

Local Congressman Warren Davidson, R-Troy, led the effort.

A spokeswoman for Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said the senator “will continue to work with Governor DeWine, Senator Brown and the administration to ensure our farmers get the assistance they need.”

Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said he pressed the Department of Agriculture to provide flexibility for the farmers and that the nation needs to start addressing climate change that is impacting weather patterns.

Darke County farmer Aaron Overholser took prevent plant insurance on a couple corn fields this year for the time ever. Planting the first week of June is risky, he said. An early frost, disease, bugs and flooding rains can ruin an already reduced yield crop.

“The prevent plant insurance, for Darke County it’s going to be really good, especially if they up it. Up north there’s farms that didn’t plant anything. As a farmer a couple fields not getting planted is manageable but there’s some farms that didn’t get anything planted or a large percentage didn’t get in, so it would definitely help them out,” Overholser said.

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Deadline is today

Farmers have until today to determine whether they’ll take full coverage on their soybeans under most prevent plant insurance policies, but Higgins said most farmers will take the risk and try to plant through the first week of July if they can see a dry patch in the forecast.

Harbage doesn’t qualify for prevent plant insurance on the 10 acres he hasn’t planted because the general rule is 20 percent of a field or 20 acres must be left unplanted. He also said there are no other subsidies for him right now, and he’s just waiting to see how his yield turns out, which he expects to be 30 percent below average.

Farmers who planted remain concerned that their crops won’t thrive because they haven’t been able to spray the weeds or apply nitrogen to the corn. Water is washing away seed and creating a haven for bacteria. Many haven’t started cutting alfalfa yet with few dry days and as winter wheat harvest approaches, farmers are worried it may not dry out.

“It’s kind of like Mother Nature hits us on one cheek then comes right around and swaps us on another,” said Darke County farmer Greg McGlinch.

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