farming

A Poor Planting Season For Ohio Farmers

Aug 14, 2019
tractor in farm field
Jean Beaufort / Public Domain Pictures

Ohio farmers are grappling with the worst weather-related planting season on record, with more than one in seven acres covered by the federal crop insurance program unplanted because of record rainfall.

But Ohio isn’t alone. Farmers across the Midwest have struggled with how to balance the equation of when, how or even if to plant their crops. 

Humans must drastically alter food production to prevent the most catastrophic effects of global warming, according to a new report from the United Nations panel on climate change.

The panel of scientists looked at the climate change effects of agriculture, deforestation and other land use, such as harvesting peat and managing grasslands and wetlands. Together, those activities generate about a third of human greenhouse gas emissions, including more than 40% of methane.

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio)
John Minchillo / Associated Press

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) visited the Ohio State Fair over the weekend to mingle with hundreds of farmers from around the state, while news spread that President Donald Trump was moving forward with plans to increase tariffs on Chinese imports. 

What's a Mexican restaurant without guacamole? What's a hipster cafe without avocado toast? Some restaurateurs may be contemplating these questions this summer as the price of avocados has spiked to almost double the price a year ago.

In Los Angeles' Boyle Heights neighborhood, El Tepeyac Cafe uses loads of avocados for its delicious homemade guacamole. In fact, it goes through about 50 boxes of the fruit every week. Operations manager Bernadette Thom says the restaurant has no choice but to pay more.

Olivia Miltner

Extreme weather is limiting crops in Ohio and that's curtailing the offerings at local farmers markets.

Robert Henry is driving along the top of a Mississippi River levee, giving me a tour of land where he'd love to be planting soybeans right now. We're just east of New Madrid, Mo.

"Smells kind of raunchy, doesn't it?" he says.

From the window of Henry's truck, I see what looks like a swamp, with trees standing in water. Then we make a turn, and suddenly, as far as I can see, there's water. It covers a wide flood plain between the main river channel and the levee. This is where Henry normally grows his crops.

The state is giving farmers another opportunity to apply for loans as they deal with severe weather and flooding that has kept many farmers from planting their crops. 

Hummus is having a heyday with American consumers, and that could be as good for the soil as it is for our health.

Baby cows outside the Kocher farm.
Olivia Miltner / WOSU

The U.S. Small Business Administration announced it will give loans to organizations impacted by excessive rain and flooding in Ohio.

Gov. Mike DeWine talks to farmer Kris Swartz in Perrysburg on June 19, 2019.
Nick Evans / WOSU

In Perrysburg on Wednesday, Kris Swartz hosted Gov. Mike DeWine and a couple dozen local famers to explain how badly this spring’s rain has derailed planting. Swartz says this year he’s had only one day—June 12—where he was able to plant.

Record rainfall in Cincinnati is causing a local co-operative farm to re-adjust its harvest plan.

Recently-sprouted soybeans on a farm in Central Ohio.
Nick Evans / WOSU

The wettest weather in Ohio's recorded history has stalled planting throughout the state, and forecasts for the rest of June aren’t looking any sunnier.

Drew and Joan Norman have been producing organic vegetables on 60 acres just north of Baltimore since 1983. On a recent spring day, signs of another new season at One Straw Farm were everywhere: seedlings in the greenhouse waiting to be transplanted, asparagus ready to be picked, tiny leaves of red- and green-leaf lettuce sprouting out of the ground — and rows and rows of plastic covering the ground on each field.

Bret Davis in one of his corn fields. He worries this years slow start could put a ceiling on yields.
Nick Evans / WOSU

The last time I visited Bret Davis' farm in Delaware County, earlier in the spring, I was asking him about a federal program helping farmers bit by the trade war. It was raining then, and it was wet and rainy when I spoke to him this week, too.

American soil.

Those are two words that are commonly used to stir up patriotic feelings. They are also words that can't be taken for granted, because today nearly 30 million acres of U.S. farmland are held by foreign investors. That number has doubled in the past two decades, which is raising alarm bells in farming communities.

Pages