Panicked farmers throughout the Midwest are facing the increasing probability that vast tracts of fields will remain unplanted or crops will fail this year as much of their land remains under water or too sodden for farm equipment and plants.
It’s been the wettest 12 months ever in the U.S., and scientists link it to the effects of climate change.
“The frequency of these disasters, I can’t say we’ve experienced anything like this since I’ve been working in agriculture,” John Newton, chief economist at the American Farm Bureau Federation, told The Washington Post.
It’s the slowest planting time in 39 years.
Sodden fields lie fallow, and corn and soy crops that have been planted are stunted in the mud. Hard-hit states include Ohio, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, South Dakota, Oklahoma, Nebraska and Michigan. Waters began to recede in some areas in recent days but there’s more rain in the forecast.
“It’s going to be a train wreck,” Illinois corn farmer James McCune, whose family has been tilling the soil since 1857, told Crain’s Chicago Business. He could only plant 950 acres this year of the 6,000 acres he operates.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine(R) is seeking a federal disaster declaration for more government funds. Just 50% of the state’s corn crop and 32% of its soybean crop had been planted as of a few days ago because of relentless rains and flooding. There’s already a state of emergency in every single county in Oklahoma.
Indiana corn farmer Kendall Culp and his 80-year-old dad called weather conditions this year “unprecedented.” “I’ve never had a yield where I couldn’t get my crop planted,” he told the Post.
The Trump administration is already spending a total of $27 billion in subsidies just to help farmers survive the president’s trade war.
Trump hasn’t acknowledged the flood toll on the group he refers to as his “patriot farmers,” who are credited with helping put him into the White House. Meanwhile, he continues to raise doubts about climate change exists. The climate has changed, he concedes, but “will it change back?” he asked recently in an Axios interview. “Probably, that’s what I think.”
His policy changes — including his intention to ease vehicle emission standards — will predictably worsen climate change, according to scientists.
A new Purdue University study has found that farmers are becoming increasingly pessimistic about their futures, citing losses from both Trump’s trade war and the current weather conditions.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service estimated that farmers had planted just 67% of the acreage planned for corn by June 3. This time last year, the figure was at 96%.
“That translates to almost 40 million acres of corn not planted,” Michale Nepveux, an economist for the American Farm Bureau Federation, told the Pacific Standard. “That’s astronomical.”
By the end of May, only 29% of soybeans had been planted, compared with 66% at the comparable time in years past, according to data released Tuesday by the Agriculture Department. In Indiana by late May only 2% of the corn crop and 11% of planned soybeans had been planted.
It’s not only the farmers, but their communities that suffer.
“Everything comes from land and feeds our small towns, our elevators, fertilizer business, seed business, machinery business, all that,” said Illinois farmer Dan Koster. “There’s that ripple effect that’ll affect all those guys.”