crops

Photo by Nick Fiala

Significant rainfall and abnormally cool temperatures have put all of Jasper County and Indiana in a precarious position when it comes to this year’s crop production.

JASPER COUNTY — The cool temperatures and significant rainfall this spring has placed Indiana in an increasingly bleak position when it comes to its 2019 crop production outlook.

Jasper County, once called the state’s No. 1 corn-producing county, is no exception. According to local agricultural leaders, it seems increasingly likely that the county’s crop production will suffer this year.

Jasper County Purdue Extension educator Bryan Overstreet was asked to guess how much of the county’s crop production had been impacted by this spring’s weather.

“It’s probably close to, 20 and 10 percent, in the area,” Overstreet said of the amount that won’t be planted. “It’s probably closer to 10 percent in this area. We’re probably 80 percent done here. You go down by Crawfordsville, and they’re closer to 50 percent done. And, most years, you’re 100 percent done by now.”

According to the risk management of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, prevented planting is a failure to plant an insured crop with the proper equipment by the final planting date designated in the insurance policy’s Special Provisions or during the late planting period, if applicable. Final planting dates and late planting periods vary by crop and by area.

“After June 5, with corn, you can do prevented planning,” Overstreet said. “So, it’s getting late enough that your yields are getting hurt enough that it gets to the point it’s not worth planting.”

Overstreet feels the full extent of the damage is not yet certain.

“It’s too early to tell,” he said. “We’re off to a rough start. The next couple weeks, they’re calling for cooler-than-normal temperatures, which are going to even set us farther behind. Because of how spread out some of our plantings were, we’re going to probably have some more issues with insects and diseases that we may not normally have, either. So we’re kind of behind the eight ball right now.”

He did say, however, that if things turn around, the county could end up with some “decent” yields and be OK. That said, the situation is not looking as promising on a week-by-week basis.

“Right now, we’re behind, and it’s not looking promising to catch up on,” Overstreet said. “It’s going to be a challenge. The prices are a little better than they were but still not very good. We were about twice as wet than normal in May for rainfall.”

Jasper County Commissioner Kendell Culp, who is also vice president of the Indiana Farm Bureau, expressed shock at the low percentage of corn which was able to be planted by the middle of the month.

“June 10 (with) 66 percent is just unbelievable,” Culp said. “It should be 100 percent.”

While pointing out that it’s getting too late to plant soybeans, Culp noted that corn is usually planted earlier.

“Corn is something you always get in early and have done in May,” he said. “Some people get it done in April, depending on the amount that they farm. So you’re at the point where you lose multiple percents of bushels of yield, possible yield, expected yield per day of delayed planting. Once we’ve gotten to this point, I think most people, if they don’t have their corn planted, will probably take prevented planting.”

Farmers have spent significant portions of the season looking for windows in which to plant corn during clear weather.

“Never in my lifetime had we not been able to get our crops planted,” Culp said Wednesday. “We actually just finished yesterday with our last sale of soybeans. We had to get our corn put in fairly timely. There weren’t very many weather opportunity windows where we could get everything done timely. You had to take advantage of what window that you had.”

Culp also mentioned that some farmers in or around the local area may not have been able to plant virtually anything of substance thus far.

“I think there’s a few people that don’t have anything in the ground,” he said, “and that’s really tough when a farmer doesn’t have a crop to plant.”

According to a June 10 report from the Indianapolis Star, Indiana is behind almost every other state in its corn planting. Economists have said this could put upward pressure on meat prices. And now the soybean crop, which has already been affected by tarrifs, is starting to fall behind, too.

Culp said the federal government recognizes how these circumstances can lead to a significant loss of income. Because of trade disputes, there will be another round of market facilitation payments, but even these come with a catch.

“That’s based on acres planted, so if you don’t have acres planted you’re not possibly eligible for a payment there — which is kind of a double-whammy to put those farmers in that position,” Culp said.

Though farmers don’t like to take payments from the government, Culp said, they need a strong market to maintain reasonably fair prices.

“You’ve got to have a need for those commodities,” Culp said. “And that’s one place where the government can help, is by forging these agreements with other countries, different trading partners, to where we will export our commodities to them and they might have commodities we don’t raise that they can export to us.”

Culp has recently been appointed by U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue to serve on the Agricultural Technical Advisory Committee for Trade in Grains, Feed, Oilseeds and Planting Seeds. The committee will be attempting to address how international trade issues are affecting farmers on the local level.

“Obviously, we’ve had disruptions in that, and I think that’s part of what this committee is going to do, is explain and emphasize to this administration how important it is to have open markets, to where farmers can get their commodity to them for their needs,” he said.

To that end, Culp commended Perdue for his support of farmers on the local level.

“He understands the need,” Culp said. “And he said before, ‘If you farmers raise these crops, we’re going to find a home for them.’ We expect that to happen.”