David Daniels, director of the Ohio Department of Agriculture, and Robert Latta, U.S. Congressman (R-Bowling Green), confirmed Monday that Fulton County has been declared a drought disaster county.
Daniels, Latta, and Eric Richer, Fulton County Agricultural Extension Agent, took part of a tour of farms in eastern Fulton County and Defiance County on Monday, Aug. 6.
Richer said they saw that this year’s corn crop is “really, really poor,” with one farmer projecting his 2012 crop would amount to 20% to 30% of a normal year.
“There were a lot of ears that were poorly pollinated, with 18 to 20 kernels, when normally there should be a lot more,” Richer said.
Part of the talk on the tour was how to salvage the crop.
Richer said some cattle producers are cutting their corn for silage. They had to have the corn tested to make sure nitrate levels weren’t at poisonous concentrations.
For those who don’t cut their corn for animal feed, John Gaynor, county executive director of the United States Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency, said there’s another potential problem.
Those who try to harvest their crop may find difficulty getting it through combines.
“The cobs are so small, they may just slip right through,” he said.
“Is it worth going through a field for so few kernels?”
What rains did fall were so spotty that Gaynor said in some fields, there will be corn capable of producing 200 bushel-per-acre yields.
Yet, less than 50 yards away, there is badly damaged corn.
“Our fields look like giant roller coasters,” Gaynor said.
While Fulton County is officially a drought disaster county, what that means in terms of government assistance to farmers is not known.
Richer and Gaynor said any disaster assistance programs available in the federal farm bill expired last September.
So far, Congress has not approved a new farm bill.
There are emergency lowinterest loans, “but who wants to borrow more money?” Gaynor asked.
Gaynor said there has been talk about a bill separate from the farm bill going by the name of SURE, or SUpplemental REvenue.
The problem with that, Gaynor said, is farmers will need to show what their income for 2012 is before they can apply for assistance. Receiving actual checks might take a year, when many need money now.
The USDA is also allowing farmers to bale straw or graze cattle on land placed in the Conservation Reserve Program, or CRP.
However, in Fulton County, that represents about 1% of the land, and the county’s CRP land generally doesn’t lend itself to grazing or baling.
The extension service is sponsoring a meeting Friday, Aug. 10, 10 am, at the Defiance County extension office, to discuss salvaging crops for silage.
The meeting, Gaynor said, will be a place where livestock producers can get expert advice.–David Pugh