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Medina County farmers seek federal help after heavy rain, flooding

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Corn may not be knee high by the Fourth of July — as the old farming adage goes — and such fears are prompting farmers to call on the federal government to find a way to alleviate some of the losses suffered this year due to heavy rain and flooding.

“Some additional planting has been done, however, they’re still not totally done with what they would like to get done,” Jim Dieter, district manager of the Medina County Water and Soil Conservation District, said Thursday.

“Many of them have decided that they might not even plant this year and they’ll go with what they call preventative planting, which is when they don’t plant anything other than a cover crop to just get some cover going over the ground.”

Dieter also said that many dairy farmers and others who make hay for their livestock have not been able to do so because the ground has been so wet.

In an effort to help, Gov. Mike DeWine sent a request earlier this month to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for its secretarial disaster designation.

Ohio’s senators, Sherrod Brown, D-Cleveland, and Rob Portman, R-Cincinnati, back DeWine’s efforts.

In a June 21 joint letter to Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, Brown and Portman urged for the designation to end the tremendous uncertainty facing Ohio farmers.

“Farmers in the wettest counties are now faced with the reality that many acres will likely go unplanted,” the letter read.

“Ohio’s agriculture sector is strong, but this year’s extreme weather, coupled with continued uncertainty in the commodity markets, could have troubling long-term effects on this important industry.”

On Tuesday, County Commissioner Bill Hutson offered this scenario about how farming struggles could trickle down to residents in search of local produce.

Hutson said he was told a dozen of corn could end up costing about $8.

“They can’t get their crops in the field,” he said.

DeWine’s efforts, if successful, will bring aid to struggling farmers.

“Gov. DeWine has requested some changes be made and the farm bureau has worked real hard in getting some changes made with the utilization of cover crops,” said Lowell Wolff, president of the Medina County Farm Bureau and a local dairy farmer.

“In the past, you couldn’t harvest anything off of preventative plant acres until after November. Well, we know what the weather is like in November.

“They did bump it up to September that you could start harvesting a few cover crops off of preventative plant acres.”

Planting preventative crops offers protection and enrichment for the soil during rough seasons. But it is the bottom-line of many farmers that have most worried.

“It’s all about getting some disaster relief funding,” said Ty Higgins, spokesman for the Ohio Farmers Bureau. “This is the first step in that process and we are so thankful that Gov. DeWine put his office and his name and face and his voice behind what’s happening in rural Ohio because it has been a devastating spring for many farmers not able to get their corn and soybean plants in the ground.”

Higgins said a disaster relief package passed in Congress a few weeks ago might also end up helping farmers in Ohio, but there are other states that need relief due to weather as well.

“What this disaster declaration means is that, if there happens to be funding from this disaster package that came out of Congress about three weeks ago, that first will be utilized in the middle of the country where they had major flooding in the late winter, early spring in that Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri area,” he said.

“But once they get those farmers taken care of, if there’s any of the $3 billion dollars left, it will go to those farmers that have been most impacted here in Ohio.

“That’s why it’s so important for the governor to speak out.”

Farmers in the southwest part of the state have made more progress toward planting compared with the northern part of the state but overall, Higgins said, this is one of the worst growing seasons Ohio farmers have seen in decades.

“What I’ve heard is that when it’s all said and done, we will be lucky here in Ohio to have 50 to 60 percent of corn planted and 50 to 60 percent of beans planted,” he said.

Contact reporter Alyssa Alfano at (330) 721-4063 or aalfano@medina-gazette.com.


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