Mark Wilson Evansville Courier & Press
Published 4:37 PM EDT Jun 4, 2019
EVANSVILLE — Delayed by heavy rains, local farmers are racing to finish planting and minimize the impact of lower yields and diminished insurance payments.
Throughout Indiana and the rest of the Midwest, farmers have struggled to meet traditional planting deadlines in one of the wettest springs many can remember and coming out of the wettest 12 months on record in the United States.
Farmers statewide had only planted 31 percent of corn and 17 percent of soybeans as of June 2, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s crop progress report that indicated an average of just over 14 inches of rain had fallen on Southwestern Indiana since April 1. Most farmers hope to finish planting by early May.
Some farmers may choose to cut their losses and file for prevented planting crop insurance. However, even if they qualify, the payments decrease 1 percent a day for each day they plant past June 5, said Bob White, director of national government relations at the Indiana Farm Bureau.
This means farmers must gamble on whether it will be financially worth extending their time planting. For many farmers, like John Carnahan in Knox County, it is still worth the risk.
“This has been the wettest year I can recall,” he said. “Our windows of opportunity have been very narrow. It hasn’t been more work but it has just been stretched out further. We have been pushing to try to get it done. We have lost a lot of yield potential.”
Carnahan said his farm finished planting corn Monday and were working on replanting some areas that had flooded out after planting. He said they were still planting soybeans.
However, he said the struggle to plant was still the best option.
“Prevented planting is not really an option for us. The dollar amount we would receive would be far less than even a reduced yield. You have got to be optimistic,” Carnahan said.
More: Wet weather putting Southwestern Indiana farmers behind in planting
Kurt Stahl, who farms in Vanderburgh, Warrick and Spencer counties, estimated he was about 90 percent done with planting. But he said as much as 20 percent of what he has already planted may have to be redone.
“We are going to have some we are going to have to redo because of the rain. We got flooded out in some areas,” he said. “It seems like nationwide, this looks like an event like we have never seen before.”
Rain has just part of the reason for the delay. Stahl said more field preparation was necessary than usual.
“We had such a wet winter. When you have a winter like that with freezing, then thawing and heavy rains, it causes the most erosion,” he said.
Even when planting is finally behind them, Carnahan and Stahl said farmers still must hope the right weather comes along for growing time.
Because planting time is extending right up to potentially hot, dry summer conditions, the heat could kill crops early before the plants are established.
“The fear is that it will go from too wet to too dry,” Stahl said.
It’s not just farmers hurting because of the record wet weather, White said.
“All of the input dealers, for the seed, fertilizer, chemicals and equipment. If farmers don’t need what they have to sell, that will effect their commissions,” he said. “There is a ripple effect on the agriculture economy.”
Low market prices from an oversupply of grain stored from past harvests, caused by export tariffs, also are adding to the financial strain on the agricultural economy, White said.
He said Indiana typically exports about a third of its corn and soybeans each year, he said.
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