The challenges facing Michigan farmers keep piling up.
Already negatively affected by a wet and cold spring that delayed – or prevented entirely – planting of key Michigan crops, an early onset of winter with a November snowfall is now delaying the fall harvest of feed corn and soybeans, according to Theresa Sisung, associate field crops and advisory team specialist for Michigan Farm Bureau.
Without a hard freeze to solidify the ground, farmers are unable to operate heavy equipment on the wet fields, delaying the harvest.
“The wet weather this fall has caused fields to be incredibly muddy and prevented crops from drying down, which is making harvest challenging,” Sisung explained. “Some farmers are waiting until the ground freezes to get back out into the fields to try and harvest their crops. Also, due to late planting, crops were later to mature this year than normal.”
Sisung said the yield of corn and soybeans is down, partially because of the late planting and partially because of the inability to harvest.
“As of Sunday, only 66% of corn and 85% of soybeans were harvested in Michigan compared to the five-year average of 89% and 97% respectively,” she said.
In the spring Sisung told GLBM emerging corn, soybean and wheat crops in good to excellent condition were at or below 40%, which meant the crops that got planted were struggling.
Now farmers are struggling to bring those same crops in. If the harvest is delayed later into the winter, crop damage could further lower the yield.
“As we head into the winter and crops are still in the field, there is the potential for yield loss,” Sisung noted. “When the corn and soybeans start to break apart the plants fall down and the grain can end up on the ground, which makes it hard to pick up with the combine.
“As we get later into the year there is a greater likelihood of yield declines due to the crop falling down, wildlife damage and other factors,” she added.
Michigan Agri-business Association Vice President Tim Boring agreed that this year has been a challenge to the industry.
“2019 is proving to be a struggle for Michigan agriculture from beginning to end,” Boring said. “As of Monday, Dec. 2, USDA lists 34% of Michigan’s corn crop still unharvested and 15% of soybeans unharvested. Harvest losses are always a concern the longer a crop stays in the field, but harvest operations just become more difficult and inefficient in winter conditions.
Boring noted the challenges may carry over into 2020.
“The late harvest has implications on planting next spring as well. Tillage operations are much more effective in the fall, while a greater percentage of soil sampling and fertilizer applications will now have to take place in the spring,” he explained. “Producers and agri-businesses alike are ready to get 2019 behind them and begin preparing for a 2020 season that hopefully brings more typical weather.”
If farmers have crops covered by a crop insurance policy and are experiencing harvest delays and believe they will potentially have a loss, they should immediately contact their crop insurance agent to file a Notice of Loss and request more time to complete harvest.
“Farmers with insurance … must file a Notice of Loss before the end of the insurance period, which is Dec. 10 in Michigan,” Sisung explained.
Help is available for farmers who suffered loss in the spring and fall.
In November, the U.S. Department of Agriculture designated 43 Michigan counties as primary natural disaster areas. Producers who suffered losses caused by excessive rain, flooding, flash flooding and abnormally cold temperatures that occurred since March 1 may be eligible for USDA Farm Service Agency emergency loans.
Ingham, Eaton and Clinton counties are Greater Lansing area counties eligible for assistance. The other counties are Alger, Antrim, Benzie, Berrien, Cass, Charlevoix, Cheboygan, Delta, Dickinson, Emmet, Genesee, Grand Traverse, Gratiot, Hillsdale, Huron, Iron, Kalkaska, Lapeer, Leelanau, Lenawee, Livingston, Macomb, Manistee, Marquette, Mason, Menominee, Monroe, Muskegon, Oakland, Oceana, Otsego, Presque Isle, Roscommon, St. Clair, St. Joseph, Sanilac, Schoolcraft, Shiawassee, Washtenaw, and Wayne, according to a USDA news release.
The natural disaster designation allows the Farm Service Agency to extend emergency credit to producers recovering from natural disasters. Emergency loans can be used to meet various recovery needs including the replacement of essential items such as equipment or livestock, reorganization of a farming operation or the refinance of certain debts, according to the release.
The deadline to apply for emergency loans is June 30, 2020.
Farmers may contact their local USDA service center for further information on eligibility requirements and application procedures for these and other programs. Additional information is also available online at www.farmers.gov/recover.
Farm Service Agency Service centers in the Greater Lansing area may be found at: