COLUMBUS — Numbers released Monday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture confirm what many Ohio farmers already knew — the weather has made this the state's worst planting season on record.

More Ohio farmers were unable to plant this year and forced to collect insurance than any other year since USDA began keeping prevented planting records in 2007.

At 15.1%, Ohio had the highest rate of acres where insured farmers were prevented from planting due to the weather nationally, followed by Arkansas, Michigan and Mississippi, according to the USDA data.

It was the first time Keith Truckor, who has farmed for about 40 years, couldn't plant a crop.

Truckor, 57, who farms in Fulton County in northwest Ohio, normally plants 1,500 acres of corn and soybeans.

"It was a tough decision emotionally and financially," he said. "We as farmers take a lot of pride in planting our crop every spring, and nurturing that crop through the growing season and in harvesting that crop in the fall. Emotionally, you want to get out there and do that, because that's the way you've been brought up."

The record in Ohio was shattered this year for the percentage of acres where farmers invoked their prevented-planting insurance, which allows farmers to collect when conditions such as heavy rainfall and flooding prevent them from planting crops. They receive money to cover fixed costs, which is a fraction of the money they would receive from a thriving crop.

Previously, the record for Ohio was set in 2011, when insured farmers were unable to plant 5.83% of the corn crop. This year, that number hit 25% for corn. For soybeans it was 12.9% this year compared to the previous record of nearly 2% in 2015, said Ben Brown, an assistant professor of agricultural risk management at Ohio State University's College of Food, Agricultural & Environmental Sciences, who analyzed the historical data. The USDA data released Monday will continue to be updated through January as the season progresses.

Truckor is not alone. In Ohio, a total of more than 1.5 million acres that normally would be planted with crops are lying fallow this year. That number includes 881,000 acres of corn and 599,000 acres of soybeans in fields where farmers were prevented from planting.

Nationally, most of the acreage where farmers were prevented from planting due to weather conditions was for corn, at 11.2 million acres, followed by soybeans at 4.4 million acres, the USDA reported. Taking into account all acres where crops either failed or farmers did not plant, Louisiana was the nation's hardest-hit, followed by Massachusetts and Ohio.

"Ohio is maybe the worst hit of all the states in the Corn Belt in terms of the rainfall this spring and summer ... I'm looking at a couple other states like Illinois and Indiana, and really, they're hit hard, too. But I think this report just once again, solidifies that we are seeing Ohio is right next to the worst in terms of hardest areas," Brown said.

 

 

In Fulton County, where Truckor resides, farmers were unable to plant crops on 35.7% of the county's agricultural land, according to USDA data analyzed by The Dispatch.

In three counties in Mississippi and one in Illinois, insured farmers were prevented from planting on more than half the farm acres. In the worst-hit county in Ohio, Williams County, also in the state's northwestern corner, insured farmers were prevented from planting on 46.8% of the county's agricultural land.

By that measure, Williams County was the 11th worst-hit in the nation.

Ty Higgins, a spokesman for the Ohio Farm Bureau, described the numbers as staggering and shared concerns for the mental health of farmers.

"We just have to be aware that [farmers are] going through some tough times," he said. "We just hope they know that Ohio is behind them and there to support them in whatever way they need it."

As for Truckor, he looks to next season.

"My hope and prayers are that we don't get a couple more back-to-back bad years," Truckor said. "We tend to see, the law of averages, you know you tend to average yourself out. You've got to take the good with the bad or the business that we're in called farming will beat you up pretty bad. It sure hurts in the heat of the moment.

"Our family and the community — there's a lot of support there," he said. "We'll get through this."