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Farmers Hope to Pick Up Planting Pace

by Jerry Goshert

Published: Friday, June 7, 2019

With a few dry days to work with early this week, area farmers were able to get into the fields and plant corn. Faced with a delayed planting season, many of those farmers switched to earlier maturing varieties. But those who have heavy ground are still playing the waiting game.

The 2019 planting season is shaping up to be a historic year in a bad sense. On social media, many Midwest farmers are sharing photos of their soaked fields and referring to this year as #NoPlant19. Purdue University agro-nomist Bob Nielsen said this year ranks as the second slowest planting season on record, behind 1996.

As of Sunday, only 31 percent of the Indiana corn crop had been planted. In Michigan, corn planting reached 42 percent as of Sunday. Both states are far behind the average pace.

By this point on the calendar, most farmers have finished corn planting. However, Doug Hochstedler of Wakarusa is among those who are still waiting to plant their first seeds. He has heavy ground, and, as of Tuesday, he hadn't planted any of his 770 acres. He does have 70 acres of wheat, but he said the fall-planted crop isn't looking very good.

He remembers 1996 well. He didn't start planting his crops until June 1 and finally finished in the middle of the month. During that year, the rain fell in large quantities, he said, though less frequently than this year.

This year, the steady stream of rain events has continued from April through late May. Hochstedler said he intends to plant corn until June 20 and soybeans through the first of week of July. But he said he will need at least three to four days of dry weather before his fields will be ready for planting.

Like many farmers, the Wakarusa farmer has switched to an earlier maturing corn variety. Instead of planting 105- to 110-day corn, he will be planting 100-day corn.

In Noble County, Larry Wilkinson said he has also switched to a shorter season variety to give his crops a better chance of reaching full maturity before frost. He has 328 acres of plant, and as of last Thursday he hadn't planted anything on his heavy clay soil.

He doesn't have crop insurance, but he is not worried. With a stretch of dry weather, he feels confident that he can plant corn through June 10.

For those who purchased crop insurance, there are several options. If a farmer was unable to plant his corn crop by June 5 because of wet weather, he can choose to abandon the acres and file a Prevented Planting claim. The deadline for filing a Prevented Planting claim in Indiana is June 20 for corn (July 5 for soybeans), according to Brenda Yoder, executive director of the Farm Service Agency in Elkhart County.

Another option is to plant corn through the Late Planting Period of June 6-25 (June 21 to July 15 for soybeans) and receive a reduced payment.

Farmers may choose to plant the acreage to another crop after the Late Planting Period ends and receive a reduced insurance payment.

The final option is to plant a cover crop and receive a full prevented planting payment provided that the cover crop is not hayed or grazed before Nov. 1, or otherwise harvested at any time.

Mike Morehouse, a New Paris farmer, who farms large acreage in the New Paris area, reported that the strong storms and hail that moved through the area last Saturday did not drop any rain on his farm. He has all of his seed corn planted but has 400 acres of corn and 700 acres of soybeans yet to put in the ground. He said he has 15 acres still under water that will probably not be planted.

Because of this year's delayed planting, Morehouse said he has switched corn varieties, moving from a 113-day maturity to a 105-day maturity. Even so, he expects this year's crop to have a high moisture content at harvest.

He said this year reminds him of another wet year in 1973, when he didn't plant his crops until June 23.

Morehouse said he has never seen a year like this, where the entire Midwest experienced long delays due to wet weather. Just last weekend, he visited family in central Indiana and didn't see one field planted between Silver Lake and Tipton County, he said.

Bec Wicker, a crop insurance specialist with Beacon Ag Group, said insurance companies are expecting to handle a spike in crop insurance claims this year. However, she stresses that farmers can continue to plant corn through the Late Planting Period that ends on June 25. She added that the decision to file a claim is not a "one size fits all" situation, as each farm's APH (Actual Production History) is key in determining how much the claim is worth.

Doug Hochstedler, the Wakarusa farmer, said there isn't much he can do about the weather. On the positive side, though, this year's late planting season has caused a runup in crop prices that may "shake up the markets," he said, and create better pricing opportunities for those who are able to harvest a crop this fall.

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