Ohio Farmers Worry Over Weather And Trade Troubles

Clouds gather over a soybean field.
Clouds gather over a soybean field. A slow, stormy start to summer and international trade wars are proving to be a vicious one-two punch for Ohio farmers. [Andreia Durante / Shutterstock]
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This week’s an inch and a half of rain is another serious setback for Ohio farmers already dealing with water-logged fields and delayed planting schedules.

The state’s commodity farmers like to have corn and soybeans planted by May. But only two days were suitable for fieldwork for the week ending June 2, according to the USDA. This season has been one of the state’s worst ever, says Ohio Farm Bureau Federation spokesman Joe Cornely.

“Normally we’ve got about 90 percent of the corn planted; we’re at about a third now. We’d have about three-quarters of soybeans planted. We’re less than 20 percent. We’re maybe too far behind for some farmers to even bother planting,” he said.

Cornely adds, those farmers may have to rely on crop insurance just to break even. 

This year’s rainy spring has hurt farmers already reeling from the trade disputes, especially with China, which is the world's largest soybean buyer. President Donald Trump escalated his trade war with China in May, ramping up tariffs on about $200 billion of Chinese goods. Beijing to retaliated duties of its own. Trump and his counterpart Xi Jinping are expected to meet again in person at the end of June for the G-20 summit which could lead to resolution. But for now, China has purchases of U.S. soybeans on hold, Bloomberg reports.

Last September, the government allocated $12 billion in relief to ease some of the pain of lost income. But the checks haven’t compensated for years of declining prices and recent uncertainty, Cornely says.

"The first round of trade payments were helpful. They didn’t help farmers make any money. They might have moved them closer to break even," he said. "We've already seen five or six years of declining prices. The trade disputes... have added some uncertainty and lowered prices. Then you throw in the fact that you can't even get a crop in the ground, and it's a pretty tough time to be a farmer."

This year's projected prices for soybeans fell to $9.54 per bushel, down from $10.16 last year. Corn is holding steady at $3.96, compared to last year's $4 per bushel. 

Cornelly says the best solution is to settle the disputes, so farmers can sell products freely.

“What farmers are telling the administration regularly is, ‘We would rather earn our money from the market. Let’s get this trade dispute settled.' Let’s get back to doing what we do best and that’s producing crops and selling them on the open market,” he said.

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