Wet weather keeps farmers from planting crops

Wet weather keeps farmers from...

The recent spell of wet weather is taking its toll on Wisconsin farm fields, making it difficult to plant important crops.

Cory Brown owns a farm near Paoli, Wisconsin and has had his fair share of issues this spring.

"We actually have some of our fields that are covered with water. Anything under water is not going to sprout anymore," Brown said.

The biggest issue is, of course, the rain.

"It's not so much that we've had too much of it, but it's been spaced out in a way that we're unable to get to our fields," Brown said.

Brown has 800 acres to plant alfalfa and corn, which is primarily used to feed his dairy cows. He said he hasn't been able to harvest the first round of alfalfa, which could cause problems down the road.

"This week is generally when most farmers are harvesting alfalfa for their cows. We are unable to get into the field to harvest. The longer we wait to harvest our alfalfa, the less quality we have and that delayed cutting results in a whole year's worth of less quality," Brown said. "What happens in the first cutting of alfalfa will translate into the second, third, fourth and possibly fifth cuttings. It will impact the quality and nutritional value of that feed for our cows."

The low-quality feed could impact the milk the cows produce, and ultimately consumers.

"We're at the bottom of the pyramid, so whatever happens to us moves up," Brown said.

Crop and soil expert Heidi Johnson said farmers could also take a financial hit with the wet weather.

"It comes on a year when prices are really low, so stress is already pretty high. When you start losing yield because you're pushing the planting date back, that starts to get stressful because you're already looking at very, very low margins, both for commodity crops and for milk," Johnson said.

She said she's heard specific concerns from several farmers in Dane County, including insurance deadlines.

"There are some requirements for crop insurance that they plant by a certain date. Some farmers are concerned they won't get it done in time to get their crops insured," Johnson said.

The rainy spring isn't completely unusual for farmers. Johnson said they've gone through just about any weather condition you can think of.

"Farmers are used to this kind of thing, but it's still stressful," Johnson said.

Brown remembers the terrible drought in 2012 and looks at how the tables have turned.

"I keep joking that all this rain is from the prayers that we had in 2012, because we didn't put an expiration date on those prayers," Brown said.

Even with the fickle weather patterns, he said farmers will work through whatever comes their way.

"We grit our teeth, complain a little bit more and we just keep going. That's kind of how farmers have always worked. We take what we get and make the best out of it," Brown said.

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