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THE LAST WORD: When complaining about the wet weather, remember our farmers

Kerry Hubartt

Indiana farmers are between a mud puddle and a soft place.

While the rest of us moan and groan because our lawns are too wet to mow and our gardens too muddy to plant, some farmers throughout the Midwest are wondering whether to plant at all — and that’s their livelihood.

Many conversations throughout this spring have centered on the incessant rains and how they affect our normal routines and state of mind. But it’s the farmers we should be concerned about.

The extent of the problem is evidenced by driving across the state on I-69 or on country roads past field after untilled field blanketed in yellow-blossomed butterweed.

The persistent wet weather, the Kokomo Tribune reported last week, “has put many Indiana farmers well behind in getting their crops in the fields and has some wondering whether to plant corn because it requires a longer growing season to reach maturity.”

Corn needs to be planted earlier than soybeans to reach maturity before fall frosts end the growing season. The Tribune referenced a Purdue University analysis that shows corn planted on June 10 could have a 20 percent lower yield.

Many farmers are saying this has been the longest delay in planting they’ve seen, and with rains continually in the forecast throughout the month of May, now that it’s June most are still waiting for the fields to dry out enough to get to work.

The newspaper quoted long-time farmer Kent Chism of Howard County who said, “It’s never been the case where we didn’t have anything planted until June.”

The federal government’s weekly crop report for Indiana showed that as of the last Sunday of May just 22 percent of Indiana’s corn acreage had been planted. The average for the previous five years has been 85 percent by that date. And only 11 percent of Indiana’s soybeans have been planted, far behind the five-year average of 63 percent by late May.

A Washington Post report in early May said that since May 2018 the nation has experienced the wettest 12-month period in recorded history.

An average of 36.2 inches of rain fell on the lower 48 states, surpassing 36 inches in a 12-month span for the first time in more than 120 years of keeping records. And that total rainfall is more than six inches above average.

According to Farm Journal’s PORK, a recent report conducted by the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center states that this summer could be just as cold and wet as this spring. The outlook predicts much of the corn belt will receive cooler temperatures and above average rainfall in the next three months.

But all that’s on farmers’ minds is what to do right now.

An Associated Press story last week out of Des Moines, Iowa, focused on farmers like Jeff Jorgenson, who is still questioning how much of his 3,000 acres he can farm. A quarter of that land can’t be farmed due to flooding from the Missouri River, and much of the rest is still sopping wet as well.

He and many others have been faced with the decision about whether they should leave some or most of their land unplanted to be eligible for insurance payments.

The Kokomo Tribune report stated that on Wednesday, farmers with federal crop insurance who have not planted any corn can take a payment for 55 percent of the guaranteed corn revenue price set by the insurance plan, about $375 an acre.

“If they cross that point of no return,” said Howard County extension educator Mathias Ingle, “they’ll either have to plant soybeans or in extreme circumstances, collect the insurance money.”

Either way, there will be a significant impact on us all. Pray for our farmers.

Kerry Hubartt is former editor of The News-Sentinel.

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