Union County farmers praying for rainfall
How bad the drought has been for farmers in Union County can differ in just a short distance, with one area getting some rain and nothing a mile or two away. Although farmers in the county have been hurt by the drought, many are thankful it hasn't been worse. Pictured here is corn from the Kemp Farm in Raymond. Buy This Photo
The Great Drought of 2012 has been playing out all summer long but the official results won't be known until much closer to harvest time in mid- to late September.
In Union County, farmers allow that things are bad; but they're grateful that the situation hasn't been worse.
"We were hurt some by the drought," said Ryan Lee, who farms 2,600 acres in the Marys-ville area. "Some farmers I know did better, others a lot worse."
The difference from one mile to the next even in Union County can be stark.
"We got a little bit of rain in Marysville," he said. "But down south of the county by Milford Center, they didn't get any rain at all. So it's worse there."
Lee said Madison County, on the other hand, is holding its own because of its superior soil.
"They have just such amazing soil. It really retains water well," he said. "We have a lot more clay in our soil in Union County."
Farmers in Ohio who responded to a "Drought Survey" conducted recently by the Ohio Farm Bureau estimated yield losses of 48 percent for corn, 35 percent for soybeans, 42 percent for hay and 7 percent for wheat.
While those numbers are disturbing, Marysville crop insurance salesman Bruce Eberly said Ohio has actually been lucky.
"Farmers have been destroying crops for a month now in Indiana, Illinois and in southern Michigan. It's been a total loss for them," he said.
Lee, who is 40, said he's been farming since he was 14. He was welcomed into the business two years later with the Drought of '88, which farmers agree was the worst until this year's gave it a run for the money.
"Some people will use the weather this summer to talk about global warming," Lee said. "But from my point of view, if we haven't had a bad drought since '88 then I guess I'd say we were due."
Lee said a lack of rain in 2008 put a damper on that year's crop and he recalled a tough year in the mid-1990s, but nothing that compares to 1988 and 2012.
The economics of farming have changed in the past decade. As farmers have made more money for their products, they have paid more for fertilizer, seed and everything else around the periphery of their business.
"I used to limit my insurance to catastrophic crop, which I jokingly called my $200 yearly donation to the insurance company," Lee said. "But as our yields have increased and as we've been making more money than ever on our corn and soybeans, we've begun to purchase revenue insurance."
Even with insurance, the farmers surveyed by the Ohio Farm Bureau estimated that their income would be down 40 percent this year.
Eberle said spring beans were selling for $12.55 and corn at $5.68 a bushel. Farmers with revenue insurance (as opposed to yield insurance) are guaranteed the higher of the two prices marked for corn and beans in the spring and again this fall.
As recently as early August, Union County farmers were holding out hope for the bean crop, which could have been saved by one good downpour.
"There was about a 10-day window in August where if we'd gotten one good rain, it would have made a world of difference for beans," Lee said. "But we didn't get a drop of rain so the beans won't do well either."