By Matt Reese
After another round of showers soaked the state, the Ohio Department of Agriculture called together an expert panel to assess the impact of the extreme wet spring weather.
At the top of the agenda was assessing how wet it really has been. In the last three months, Ohio has received half of its normal annual precipitation. So far in May, rainfall totals are 177% of normal for the month. The wet May followed the wettest April since Ohio has been keeping records. Ohio got 215% of normal rainfall for April. In addition, March had 150% of the normal rainfall and February got 205% of the normal rainfall.
James Ramey, the director of the Ohio Field Office for the National Agricultural Statistics Service, said the numbers regarding the corn planting progress are a clear reflection of the wet spring.
“In the history of the Ohio progress report, corn planting has never been this far behind. Our records go back to about 1960. Back in 1960, of course, the cultural practices were lot different then they are now and corn planting was typically a lot later than it is now. We are even behind those dates,” he said. “Nationally, we are 8 points behind normal.”
If dry weather does return, there is hope that significant progress can be made very quickly.
“The most corn ever planted in one week in Ohio is 47%, but it is normally 24% to 28% in one week,” he said.
The weather forecast is looking better for Ohio, according to Jeff Myers with the National Weather Service.
“The good news is that we’re going to see a drying trend. Anyone wishing for dryer, warmer weather will be in luck,” he said. “We’re undergoing a pattern change right now to a warmer, drier pattern. The storm track is shifting northward for the next two weeks. We’re in the transition zone between the wetter north and the drier southeast. After we get passed today and tomorrow, we’re drying out in a pretty large way and it will be 80 or 90 degrees by Sunday.”
The consequences of the wet weather though, will not disappear so quickly. Crop insurance companies and the USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA) are scrambling to keep up with the huge number of questions coming from concerned farmers unable to get into swamped fields.
Brian Frieden, with the RMA, addressed some of the top concerns at the ODA meeting. With more cover crops planted last year than normal (particularly in the Grand Lake Marys Watershed) there are many concerns about cover crops going to seed and eliminating preventative planting coverage. The RMA has made an exception this year giving producers until June 1 to manage the cover crop prior to corn and June 10 to terminate the crop prior to soybeans.
“We had to make sure that we maintained the integrity of that program while being flexible,” Frieden said. “The main thing we would ask is that before you make a decision about anything, make sure and talk to your agent.”
Crop insurance agent Keith Summers, with Leist Mercantile in Circleville, said he has been getting questions from those who do not have preventative planting coverage.
“GRP and GRIP are the group plans that do not include preventative planting. You can buy preventative planting outside of that but those do not include it. If they bought GRP, it is a yield-only coverage that insures you against the county yield,” he said. “Next year they determine what the yield was in that county and if it falls below that trigger, than the GRP will pay. Obviously with the wet conditions the corn will suffer and could fall below those county triggers. With the GRIP, it has yield coverage plus the price protection. The prices are higher now so there is not price loss. That policy could trigger if there is a yield loss. In order for the insurance to attach, they have got to get acres in the ground. They can’t sit back and take preventative planting.”
While corn planting has been at the forefront of concerns this spring, the wet weather is also wreaking havoc on vegetable growers who are scrambling to plant their crops in a timely manner. The delayed planting could hinder the supply and quality of Ohio’s various vegetable crops and produce. The winter wheat quality is also deteriorating in the wet weather that has been very favorable for the development of fungus and disease.
And, while farmers are on the front lines of the battle with the rain, those working in agriculture’s regulatory and service agencies have been flooded with issues resulting from all the water. NRCS State Conservationist Terry Cosby talked about the challenges with Conservation Reserve Program contracts that are unable to be fulfilled due to the limited opportunities to seed this spring. Other government program projects including spring development, fence building and grass waterway installations cannot meet the contractual deadlines resulting in a paperwork nightmare of re-working and extending contracts. In addition, manure lagoons are filling up and fields are too wet to spread it. Streams and ditches are filled with flood debris to the point that they can no longer handle water. The livestock industry is concerned about the feed supply (and the cost) as well.
If the forecast holds true, and it dries up very soon, the implications of all of this water will not go away quickly. This wet spring has created challenges that will need to be dealt with for quite some time. And, this is just in Ohio. The folks along the Mississippi are rooting for some dry weather for Ohio’s farmers too.
Here are more Ohio State University Extension resources to help make decisions related to the wet spring: