Winter presents challenges for farmers

Winter has set in and we knew it would eventually. We just never know quite when in this part of the country. It has been seasonally cold and we are now dealing with a major snowstorm. More will be here, maybe when we least expect them, but we need to be ready.

On the farm, equipment needs to be geared up to handle the cold and also heavy snowfall. Blades should be on tractors to move the snow from driveways and around farm lots. Where cows have to move from barns to the milking parlor or from one barn to another, drives need to be clear and not slippery.

On dairy farms, milk trucks have to get in to take the milk to processors. Most farms do not have storage capacity to store more than two days milking, so regular pickup is essential.

Across the U.S., agriculture has been the victim of several disasters in 2017. Late snow last spring in the Corn Belt delayed planting in that area. Hurricanes, tornadoes, fire, wind and rain hit other parts of the country during the year.  Farmers’ ability to bounce back was tested.

In February, California had serious flooding. Much needed rain caused the Feather River to go over its banks. More that 200,000 acres of farmland and fields were covered with water for several months. Weeks of warm weather followed by a late frost in March damaged fruit and vegetable crops in some southern states. The state of Georgia alone suffered a $200 million loss from damaged blueberries and other fruit crops.

Late April and late May brought 11 inches of rain to Missouri and Arkansas, causing serious flooding. At the same time there was heavy snow in the Plains states.  Parts of Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas had blizzard conditions, delaying planting and causing livestock loss.

Hurricanes Harvey and Irma left their mark. Hurricane Harvey caused losses over $159 million while Irma damaged fruit and vegetable crops in Florida. Dairy farms in Florida also suffered serious losses of both buildings and livestock.

Recovering from these agricultural losses will not happen overnight. It will take months, and even years in some cases, to get back to normal.

Locally, last winter we had a few heavy snowfalls. Other than causing extra work and delays in getting milk picked up, problems were not too serious. Near blizzard conditions existed in a couple of cases that made for delays and difficulties in feeding livestock.

Looking at the weather problems nationally, you can see that farmers have to deal with the whims of nature. What they get is what they have to work with.

The same situation is true for anyone who has to travel or be out in difficult winter weather. It can cause problems for all of us. Here in the Snow Belt we can have what seems like more than our share of poor winter weather with more snow than most of Ohio. We learn to live with it – or find a way to go south or west during the snowy and cold months.

Submitted by John Parker, an Ashtabula County Farm Bureau member and independent agricultural writer for Farm Bureau and other farm organizations.