By LOU WILIN
Recovery is years away for area farmers and agricultural businesses after record-breaking wet weather from late 2018 to mid-2019, Ed Lentz, Hancock County Extension agent, said Monday.
“This is a disaster,” Lentz told Findlay Rotary Club. “This is an economic and ecological and agricultural disaster.”
Hancock County’s nonfarm economy also will suffer from the millions of dollars lost in the ag sector, Lentz said.
About one-third as much corn was planted this year as last year in Hancock County, and soybean planting fell by about 25 percent, Lentz estimated.
Soybeans and corn are the top crops in Hancock County. Heavy, relentless rains forced many farmers to plant crops late or not at all.
“I have been an agronomist for 40 years in the Midwest and I’ve never seen a spring like this,” Lentz said. “I’ve never had a situation where I couldn’t plant because it was always wet.”
“We basically have had seven months of rain,” Lentz said. “Basically from the end of October to the end of June.”
Farmers either planted late, gambling on favorable weather in what is likely a shorter growing season, or instead stayed out of their fields and filed a claim for crop insurance.
But crop insurance can only soften the blow, it will not cover all the losses sustained.
It appears that federal assistance for losses resulting from unplanted crops last spring will be coming at some point, said Jim Greve, Hancock County executive director of the Farm Service Agency. But details about the assistance have not been determined, he said.
Farmers who planted corn and soybeans late will likely have lower yields on those acres because of the late start.
The pain of reduced farm activity and income is spreading to others.
“The whole ag industry is just devastated,” Lentz said.
Legacy Farmers Cooperative has sold less seed and fertilizer. It also will be taking in fewer crops in the fall.
“Our revenue will be down this year 40 to 50 percent, at least,” Mark Sunderman, chief executive officer of Legacy Farmers Cooperative, recently said. “We’ll have a loss this year for sure.”
Findlay Implement Co., a John Deere dealer, will likely be feeling the effects of last spring’s rains for years, Tom Marquart, ag sales manager, said recently.
Even the soil could have been affected by the extended run of wet weather.
“What did it do to our soil? Being all that wet and not having our regular cropping cycle, do we have new weeds that are going to be there that haven’t been there in the past?” Lentz said. “Has this changed our microorganisms in the soil and that’s going to take a couple of years for those populations to get back in balance?”
“Is that going to affect how our fertility is going to be in the soil and the way the plants can get nutrients?” he said. “These are things that are probably going to take several years to get figured out.”
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