Oh, Mister Sun, Sun, Mister Golden Sun, Please shine down on, please shine down on me. (Side note, you know you just sang along). We have been singing, crossing fingers, hoping and praying that the rain would stop so farmers across the Midwest could get in the fields. The last two weeks have offered more sun, hot days, drying breezes and less rain which has allowed planting to continue and some hay to be put up. Here in northeast Ohio we have been hanging right at the state average for acres planted, faring much better than western Ohio, but we aren’t out of the woods (or the fields) yet.
Ohio is behind every corn and soybean growing state in the United States this planting season, seeing the worst planting season in many farmers lifetimes. The corn and soybeans that were planted before the nice days recently have taken a beating from all of the rain. With that, the farmers who were lucky enough to get crops in will likely be experiencing yields much lower than normal.
It’s my job to know the struggles farmers are facing but it hits close to home. We raise steers, our families raise cattle, horses and own a meat processing facility so I personally understand and worry about what this could mean for us. But as members of the community, do we all understand that when the farmers struggle, so does our community? Agriculture is the No.1 industry in the state and is a significant contributor to our economy in the county. Farmers and their families support their local communities. Whether they are supporting school events and programs, the local coffee shop, implement dealers, or local restaurants, when they struggle, we all will struggle.
As consumers, do you realize that if there is a shortage of crops, your bill at the grocery store is going to be significantly higher? Not only will items like bread, vegetables, fruits, and oils increase but so will your meat. Livestock farmers are concerned about having enough hay to maintain their animals throughout the winter. If they can’t get their hay made, they have to buy it, but this problem is affecting more than Ashtabula County and Ohio, so hay shortages mean the prices of those forages are much higher than average. When it costs more to feed the livestock, it will cost more to produce the meat, and more to eat that meat as well.
One of the most infuriating statements I encounter regularly …” but they have crop insurance.” First thing, not all farmers carry crop insurance. Secondly, that crop insurance may be the only thing that saves many of the farms, but it doesn’t fully cover the inputs they have invested. The seed, the fertilizer, the equipment. Spring planting has been planned and purchased for months before they are put in the ground. That equipment doesn’t come free. Leases and mortgages still have to be paid. Livestock still has to be fed. Farmers are a different breed. They are born to farm, they live to farm, and for many, that’s the only life they ever imagine living. They work hard, long hours, they sacrifice time with their families and friends. They face struggles that they have no control over including the weather, the markets, consumer demand, and yet they push forward with a faith I truly have never experienced anywhere else. They take care of the land, and they love their animals, and they literally, feed the world all while being active in their communities. Farmers are experiencing a strain that I hope others never have to face. Please support them. Offer a smile, say hello, shake their hand, thank them. Faith, family, farming, community. That is what keeps this crazy world going.
By Mandy Orahood, Organization Director, Ohio Farm Bureau Federation, serving Ashtabula, Geauga, Lake and Trumbull County Farm Bureaus.