The usually iconic scenery of rows upon rows of corn stalks and soybeans may be mostly absent from Williams County this year in light of persistent rains and a looming deadline.
According to information from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, there were only two days suitable for fieldwork last week, leading to a meager 11 percent increase in corn planted across the state. This brings total planting up to 33 percent, or about a third of the five-year average of 90 percent.
Soybeans faired worse, increasing only 7 percent to 18 percent planted with the five-year average being 76 percent.
Needless to say, the county hasn’t been exempt from this trend.
“It looks like there is a rain cloud forming outside my window, so I’m not too thrilled,” said Stephanie Karhoff, agriculture and natural resources educator for the Williams County Ohio State University Extension Office. “I wouldn’t put us more than 10 percent for corn planted. I haven’t seen any beans in, but that’s not to say that there aren’t some.”
Alvordton farmer Bob Short summarized the situation as “slow or standing still.”
“There are very few crops in the ground,” he said. “There are a few guys who got some acres in on lighter soils, but for the most part, the greater percentage of farmers in Williams County are still waiting on that dry period.”
That’s true throughout the region, Short added.
He had just attended a meeting in Ottawa and said the situation was worse there.
“I’m going by some wheat fields that look absolutely horrendous,” Short said. “We’re fortunate enough our way that the wheat acres look relatively good for the conditions that we’ve had.”
At a meeting in Wauseon not too long ago, Karhoff said farmers were saying the last time they were this far behind in planting was 1947.
Adding to the stress is a looming deadline on the prevented planting crop insurance option that many farmers are likely considering.
“That’s an option where if you already have coverage, you can get a certain percent per acre,” Karhoff said. “So, a lot of people will be making that decision now.”
In order to receive full coverage, a farmer would need to take that option no later than today for corn and around June 20 for soybeans.
Short said after today, insurance coverage for corn acres planted will drop 1 percent through around June 20 when coverage will drop completely.
“You can plant corn as long as you want to, but it just depends on how much risk protection you want to have,” he said.
There are some stipulations for what could be done with the field during the next year, but Karhoff said usually farmers could plant a cover crop.
“The forecast this week has rain in it, as well, unfortunately,” she added. “It’s just going to come down to what makes sense for each operation.”
The extension does provide tools to help make the decision, Karhoff said, but they can’t offer an opinion or answer for every grower.
Short said there is an increasing interest in the prevented plant option this year.
“When you take prevented plant, you have to maintain noxious weeds on the acres that you didn’t plant, but you can go ahead and take the payment and you don’t have the input costs,” he said. “You can return your seed and you don’t have the herbicide and chemicals, things like that.
“At the end of the day, farmers have to be a lot sharper with their pencils than they used to be, especially on a year like this.”
If farmers do take the prevented plant option, Short said it was a good opportunity to keep the ground covered with a cover crop.
Beyond just planting for this season, Karhoff said there are some issues on the livestock side.
“There’s a shortage as far as hay, a lot of alfalfa fields had a lot of winter kill,” she said.