COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio corn and soybean farmers whose planting was delayed by the cold, wet spring are scrambling to avoid smaller harvests and heavy losses later this year.
Even with recent warmer, drier weather allowing farmers to get into fields that had been turned into swamps, planting is still far behind average, and "the economic impact continues to grow daily," said Barry Ward, an assistant professor and an official with Ohio State University Extension.
May's heavy rains could cause nearly $1 billion in losses for the state's corn and soybean farmers, Ward told The Columbus Dispatch. Estimated losses could reach $720 million for corn growers and about $260 million for those growing soybeans, he said.
This spring was the wettest on record for the Cincinnati area in southwest Ohio, which got soaked with 24.78 inches of rain in March, April and May. Columbus and Dayton each had their third-rainiest spring on record, according to the National Weather Service office in Wilmington.
As of last Sunday, U.S. Department of Agriculture data showed corn growers were still far behind the average year, with only 58 percent of the crop planted, and soybeans were at 26 percent, The Lima News reported. The five-year average for corn planted by this time is 99 percent, and the five-year average for soybeans planted is 62 percent.
Butch Schappacher, a farmer in southwest Ohio's Warren County, usually has most of his crops planted by this time but says record high rains in April and May put him far behind.
"We're all at the mercy of the weather," Schappacher told the Middletown Journal.
Schappacher, who grows field corn, sweet corn, soybeans and pumpkin, said three-fourths of his sweet corn needs to be in the ground now, but he only has been able to plant a quarter of that crop.
Heavy rains prevented farmers across the country from planting about 1.5 million acres of corn, and the delayed planting schedules are likely to diminish crops by harvest time in September — keeping U.S. food prices high through next year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has said. Soybean supplies aren't as tight, the agency said.
Farmer Fred Yoder of Plain City, near Columbus in central Ohio, is more optimistic about planting prospects and thinks the break in the weather and high crop prices will provide a boost for the season.
"Conditions today are ideal for getting crops started, and I think we'll catch up to near normal if we get adequate rains throughout the summer," Yoder told the Dispatch.
Dwayne Siekman, CEO of the Ohio Corn and Wheat Growers Association said the right growing conditions could help limit losses this fall. Farmers would need to have optimal conditions through the rest of June, July and August, he said.
But Schappacher expects to file a claim with his crop insurance company at some point.
"If it rains, people with regular jobs still get to work," he said. "If it continues to rain for me, I don't get paid."
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.