Soggy fields causing problems for some Virginia farmers

Published 11:11 am Friday, June 8, 2018

Virginia farmers are typically worried about lack of rainfall but after constant showers the last two weeks of May, many growers are hoping the tap is soon turned off.

A recent crop report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agriculture Statistics Service said more than half of Virginia’s farmland has surplus moisture.

That’s an understatement in some areas like Madison and Orange counties, where flooding has washed out corn and soybean fields in low-lying areas along the Robinson and Rapidan rivers.

Heavy rain also has affected growers in Albemarle, Appomattox, Bath, Campbell, Greene, Highland, Loudoun, Rockbridge and Rockingham counties. Grain farmers across Virginia also are reporting some patchy crop losses, but the biggest challenge is newly planted crops.

“People who’ve had drowned-out corn, they’re saying it’s too late to replant,” noted Robert Harper, grain marketing manager for the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation. “They just have to let that go and hope for the best with the rest of their crop.”

He added that farmers won’t be able to apply inputs to corn this week because of the wet conditions. “So that’s got them looking for something else to do,” like repairing or maintaining equipment, Harper explained.

Allan Welch, a wheat grower in Lancaster County, said “Kilmarnock got 5 inches of rain over the weekend. Our low land has got water standing on it again, and we’ve got 400 to 500 acres of beans that we cannot get planted because it is so wet.” Welch said he’s worried about the progress of his winter wheat crop.

At the beginning of May, farmers were expecting an excellent crop, 23 percent larger than in 2017. “It’s not at risk yet, but if we keep on getting rain like we did it’s going to ruin the wheat crop,” Welch lamented.

Harvest of the spring hay crop also has been delayed by weeks in some spots, and the quality is expected to be down, according to the NASS report.

Fortunately, cattle producers haven’t lost any animals, Harper said. “All the cows are out on pasture, everyone is out grazing, and we’re rotating them through shade and grass.”