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  • Audrey Helfrich

It’s Raining, It’s Pouring, the Crops Are Dying

An empty eld in Charlotte, Michigan on Sept. 5, 2019. The eld that once grew corn is now surronded by weeds instead. Duane Smuts, a Michigan farmer, said “Basically any annual plant in central Michigan grows was negatively impacted”. According to a Lansing State Journal article, by June 2 only 42 percent of Michigan’s corn was planted, and 31 percent of the soybeans were planted.

If you’ve recently taken a drive through the Michigan countryside, you might have noticed that fields that are usually bursting with either corn or soybeans were bare in a lot of places. Farmers all over Michigan have been hit hard with one of the wettest farming seasons ever recorded in Michigan.

Because the soil was so wet farmers weren’t able to plant their crops before the planting deadline or the insurance deadline. Some farmers took a risk and still planted, and others are depending on their crop insurance or the new bill Governor Gretchen Whitmer passed.

“The wet climate period we went through in central Michigan actually started in Oct. of 2018” said Duane Smuts, the owner of Smuts Farms in Charlotte, his farm has been in his family for 30 years now. Smuts’ Farms was one of many farms effected by all the rain this season.

“The amount of precipitation over that time from Oct. 18 through June of 19 was record breaking” continued Smuts, “Along with the rain nearly every day in May and June had a thick cloud cover not allowing the sun to dry the soil. The weather event caused some crops to not be planted at all and the crops that were planted all got planted in less than ideal conditions which will result with an significantly reduced yield.”

The typical time for planting to be done is around mid- to late May, depending on if it’s warm enough. According to a Lansing State Journal article, by June 2 only 42 percent of Michigan’s corn was planted, and 31 percent of the soybeans were planted.

Because farmers weren’t able to plant their crops it started a chain reaction to livestock owners who need feed for their animals, and grocery stores who are in high demand for what farmers produce.

An unplanted field alongside Needmore Highway in Charlotte, Michigan on Sept. 5, 2019. An example of one of the Michigan fields affected by the rain. In an article by Michigan State University it stated, “In the 2018 crop year, Michigan farmers purchased crop insurance for approximately 64 percent of intended corn for grain and silage acres and 73 percent of intended soybean acres according to the USDA’s risk management agency.”

“Livestock farmers struggled to plant all forage feed crops required for the health of their animals which has forced them to change feed rations. Some livestock producers were able to plant some short season forages in July but these crops produce less and are usually of lesser feed quality” said Smuts.

“The effects have already been felt at the grocery store with the reduced supply of sweet corn and fresh local vegetables available. The local product that has been available has seen price increases to the consumer” Smuts said.

A corn cob lays in an empty field in Charlotte, Michigan on Sept. 5, 2019. In an article by Jim Malewitzs titled “Michigan farm country testifies of widespread crisis as crops go unplanted”, he said “Michigan farms produce more than 300 commodities commercially, making the state second only to California in diversity, and last year it exported nearly $2 billion in agricultural products, primarily corn, soybeans, dairy products and various feeds.”

“This will continue as the reduced amount of available feed for animals will be realized over the next 12-14 months. As this occurs it will increase the cost of production of milk, eggs and meat and thus increased cost will get passed on to consumers at the grocery store”.

This farming season has been so devasting that farmers may lose their farms that have been in their family for generations.

Smuts said, “The effects will linger for at least 18 months and it will cause some producers to either change their business or end it unfortunately”.

The sun sets over a field of weeds that was once flourishing with corn in Charlotte, Michigan on Sept. 5, 2019. In the most recent crop report for the Michigan area the United States Department of Agriculture said “Cool, dry conditions have slowed maturity progress in most parts of the State, and many crops finished the week in need of precipitation and warmer temperatures.”

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