‘America’s backbone’ needs financial help

Think about the many times lately that we all have bemoaned the fact that our yards are so flooded or waterlogged that we can’t even cut the grass.

Then consider what the deluge of rain this spring has meant for those who rely on the fields for their livelihood. Rightly, these folks often are referred to as the “backbone of America.”

Undoubtedly, the fortitude of Ohio’s farmers and those in the Mahoning Valley — especially in light of this spring’s weather — must be recognized and appreciated.

Still, that appreciation doesn’t pay the bills.

Seemingly non-stop rain and flooding in recent weeks has been drowning the livelihoods of families who’ve farmed for generations in northeast Ohio.

Now Gov. Mike DeWine is stepping up to seek much-needed federal assistance for our farmers. It’s crucial that the Trump administration agree to the request — not just to aid our farmers’ current condition, but to help stabilize their future, as well.

DeWine on June 14 sent a letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue requesting a USDA Secretarial disaster designation for Ohio amid heavy rainfall impacting Ohio farmers.

In his letter, DeWine noted that record rainfall through the spring planting season has been devastating to Ohio farmers, with flooding and saturated fields preventing them from planting crops.

The Ohio Farm Bureau Federation reports that this, in fact, is the worst planting season since it started tracking planting progress. That dates back to the 1970s.

Trumbull County farmer Dan Denman of Johnston recently told the Tribune Chronicle that he has struggled to get about 90 percent of his corn crop planted this spring.

“Of the 90 percent of the corn we planted, about 75 percent made it out of the ground. It was rough to plant this year,” Denman said.

And he may be one of the lucky ones.

The latest report from the federal agriculture department says Ohio farmers have completed only 68 percent of their planned corn crop. In a typical year, farmers in the state would have nearly all of their corn fields planted by now. Looking forward to purchasing locally grown sweet corn from a roadside stand this summer? By the looks of things, I’d say don’t get your hopes up.

The corn planting season is running out. Soybean planting also is way behind because of the wet weather.

It’s clear now that many Ohio farmers will be forced to allow thousands of acres to go unplanted this year. That means not only loss of revenue for the farmers, but also a shortage of the product come fall. The ripple impact likely will result in higher prices in stores. While that’s where many of us will feel the pinch, that’s nothing compared to what farmers and the entire agricultural industry are facing.

Fertilizer dealers and farm equipment sellers will feel the squeeze, and Ohio’s dairy and livestock farmers will face serious forage and feed shortages.

Mark Drewes, a northwest Ohio farmer who grows corn that supplies two major dairy operations, said he’s only been able to plant a fraction of what’s needed.

“For the first time in my farming career, I’ve felt like my back is against the wall,” he said. “Crop insurance doesn’t put feed into those cows’ mouths.”

Ohio farmers now say it will take years to recover their losses.

While DeWine said Ohio is working to identify any and all sources of possible relief, he noted that a federal disaster declaration for Ohio will allow aid and other assistance to be made available to Ohio’s farmers.

That may be critical this year because, as farmers told DeWine, crop insurance will keep most farmers from going under, but it’s not designed to cover such widespread losses.

For certain, the USDA must approve the sorely needed assistance that would accompany a disaster declaration from the USDA for Ohio.

Let’s hope that approval comes — and without delay.