Officials Plead for Help as Crops Fail
29 June, 2018
An abnormally wet spring has led Delaware officials to ask the USDA for an emergency declaration to help farmers affected by the soggy weather.
In some instances, even multiple replantings have not helped, officials said.
“Farming is hard no matter what, but when you get hit with the weather we have seen this spring and the damage it has done to our fruit and vegetable crops, our grains and our hay, it has a huge impact on our farmers, our communities and the state as a whole,” said Gov. John Carney as he announced the request.
Weekly crop reports published by the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service show several crops in Sussex County that have been hit the hardest: corn, melons, green beans and peas. Some low-lying areas are still flooded and cannot be replanted.
In other instances, farmers have replanted multiple times in an attempt to salvage a crop.
“We have farmers who are trying to plant field corn for the third and fourth time,” said Michael Scuse, agriculture secretary. “That’s a lot of money invested in seed and when the bill arrives they are going to need help paying it.”
Kenneth Bounds, deputy agriculture secretary, said that even replanted crops have shown signs of stress because of excess moisture.
“We have some corn that has been planted two and three times, and the corn that did survive is very short of nitrogen,” he said.
Fruit and vegetable growers also have been affected. The Delaware crop progress report stated that green beans and peas are “in poor shape.”
Bounds also said the melon crop has been seriously damaged. With farmers getting seeds in the ground much later than usual, the delay could have serious consequences.
“Melons that were planted very late could well fall into a period where the price is not as advantageous,” he said.
Some areas of Delaware got nearly half the annual average rainfall total in three months this spring, according to the National Weather Service.
In southern Delaware, Georgetown recorded a total of 22.43 inches of rain from April through June 24. The normal is 10.64 inches, according to the weather service.
And the wet weather has delayed harvesting of winter grains.
Richard Wilkins, a Greenwood farmer, said his barley crop, just harvested, is down an estimated 40 percent. Fortunately, Wilkins has crop insurance to cover some of his losses.
Delaware will be eligible for federal assistance if the state can document a 30-percent loss for at least one crop. State agriculture officials will now begin the process of documenting losses and will submit them to the USDA.
If approved by the USDA, Delaware farmers would be eligible for emergency loans to recover from crop losses.
“It is impossible for Delaware farmers to come out of this without emergency assistance,” Scuse said.