It may be a new year, but Virginia farmers are still feeling the effects of last year’s wet weather.
“Some growers are just finishing up their fall corn and soybean harvest due to the continuous wet weather,” said Robert Harper, grain manager for Virginia Farm Bureau Federation. “This is likely the latest we’ve ever had part of a previous year’s crop unharvested. The entire 2018 season was drawn out from planting to harvest, all due to excessive moisture. Winter wheat and barley planted last fall also is struggling, and some had to be replanted.”
Faye Hundley and her husband, Jay, grow soybeans, barley and corn on their Essex County farm. By year-end some land on which they farm had received more than 70 inches of rain, which is nearly double what they receive annually.
“It’s been crazy,” Hundley said. “We cut the last of the soybeans after Christmas, and we have never cut them that late before.” The Hundleys also saw a decrease in the quality of their soybeans and corn due to excessive moisture.
Hundley said the 2018 rains will affect crops this year too. “We planted our small grains late, because it has been so muddy, and we are hoping they will do OK. We’ve had little ponds of water in parts of our fields all year. It just won’t dry out.”
Hundley said they also have large ruts in their fields from equipment trying to make it through the mud. “The wet weather has impacted not just the little things we do, but everything we do.”
In a typical harvest season, she said, there are one to two weeks of good weather where they can harvest crops. This past year, “we had to get out (and work) when we had the opportunity. We’d have one to two days and then be down almost a week or longer because it was raining or too wet.”
Harper said wheat also was affected by excessive moisture in 2018.
“Wheat must be harvested within a short window when it is ripe, or the quality goes down fast,” he explained. “Because of the excessive moisture, wheat wasn’t harvested on time, so a lot of milling wheat (for flour) this year had to become feed wheat (for livestock), which decreases the price that farmers receive for the crop. It’s like going from selling a Mercedes Benz to a 270,000-mile minivan.”
Harper said farmers are hopeful that 2019’s growing and harvest conditions will be better. “I think people learned a lot about being patient,” he added. “Farmers got a constant reminder in 2018 that they’re working with nature.”