Rain finally comes to county, is it too late for local farmers?

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Switzerland County received its first measurable rain in several weeks recently, but as local farmers move closer and closer to harvest time, even larger amounts of rain may not be enough to help save this year’s crops.

“We just turned in a flash report on crops to the state office this week,” Chuck Deputy of the Switzerland County Farm Service Agency said. “On that report we estimated that corn and soybeans here will suffer a 40-percent loss due to the dry weather. On tobacco and hay we’re estimating a 50-percent loss; and on pasture it looks like about a 45-percent loss.”

Chuck Deputy said that each county FSA office turns in reports to the state office, which in turn supplies the governor’s office with statistics as they affect local farmers. The governor’s office can then use those figures to declare certain agricultural areas as “disaster areas”, making farmers in those areas eligible for emergency loan money.

As for this week’s rain, Chuck Deputy said that corn and soybeans are already here, and that means that it’s probably too late.

“The corn’s here and the pods have been set for soybeans, so for a majority of our crops, the rain is too late,” Chuck Deputy said. “It will help the hay and pasture, but it’s probably too late for row crops.”

The Farm Service Agency office shows that Switzerland County has 1,400 acres of tobacco; 10,000 acres of corn; and 11,000 acres of soybeans this year. On an average year, Chuck Deputy said that an acre of tobacco will produce 2,000 pounds; an acre of corn will produce 150 bushels; and an acre of soybeans will produce 45 bushels.

According to Consolidated Grain and Barge in Aurora, Tuesday figures saw corn selling currently for $2.015 per bushel; while soybeans were selling at $6.11.

Taking those figures, under normal conditions Switzerland County farmers would generate $3,022,500 in corn; and $3,024,450 in soybeans.

If Farm Service Agency projections are correct and both crops suffer a 40-percent loss; that means that Switzerland County farmers could suffer financial losses of over $2.5 million this growing season.

That doesn’t include tobacco, where new regulations and the loss of the subsidy program make it anyone’s guess as to where burley prices might settle this fall.

“I do think it’s going to be significant,” Chuck Deputy said of the crop losses. “Those are just estimates of losses, and some places weren’t hit quite as badly as others, so they may do better. Some places got isolated showers, but overall that’s what we’re looking at. I think we’ll see some significant losses.”

Chuck Deputy said that he has spoken with some Switzerland County farmer who are saying that the corn in the field is only halfway up the ear due to the lack of rain; and that soybeans that should be the size of peas are only the size of BBs.

“We’ll just have to see what happens when we actually get to market,” Chuck Deputy said. “I hope all of these projections are wrong.”

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Making matters even more unsettling for county farmers is the rumor that the state will be closing the Switzerland County Farm Services office in a cost cutting move.

Chuck Deputy said that currently there are no plans to close the Switzerland County office, but said that currently state officials are in the talking stages, and nothing has been decided.

“One day they talk about it, then the next day things change,” Chuck Deputy said. “It’s just an option that the state is looking at right now, and that’s about all we know.”

Chuck Deputy said that the rumor that the office has already been told that it will close in November is “news to him”; but said that the loss of the tobacco program the workload in the county office here has been lessened.

“The tobacco program was our biggest workload here in this office,” Chuck Deputy said. “There aren’t any more leases or marketing cards and things like that to deal with, so we’ll just have to wait and see what happens like everyone else.”

If the Switzerland County office is closed, services provided would be combined with another office in a neighboring county.