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Issues Of The Environment: Climate Change Is Changing Agriculture In Michigan

Sep 4, 2019

Corn and Soybeans Growing in a Field in Pittsfield Township
Credit Wikipedia Media Commons / wikipedia.org

The weather this year has been unfavorable for the corn and soybean harvest in Michigan.  Farmers have faced colder and wetter-than-normal conditions in the spring, and that delayed planting.  Now, an early freeze could devastate the harvest this fall.  In this week's "Issues of the Environment," WEMU's David Fair discusses problems and solutions with Roger Betz, farm business management educator with Michigan State University Extension.


Overview

  • Due to the cold and wet conditions during the Spring 2019 season, many Michigan producers were not able to plant their corn and soybeans.  As of June 12, Michigan farmers had only planted 63 percent of planned corn seeds, 43 percent of soybean seeds.

  • The decision to plant or not to plant was complicated by policy and price uncertainties.  Roger Bertz writes, “The 2019 Market Facilitation Program (MFP), which the government said should not influence plantings is in fact being considered in producers decisions to plant.”  In effect, some farmers planted rather than taking crop insurance, and others opted to wait and plant soy instead of corn because it can be planted later.  Still, more acres went unplanted this year than in any year since 2007, when data keeping began.

  • The deadline for full coverage through crop insurance was June 5 for corn and June 15 for soybeans.  Some farmers bet on the likelihood that corn prices expected to be high, but because yield and quality are projected to be low this could turn out not to be a safe choice.

  • The concerns for farmers still aren’t over.  A cool or early fall could halt crops before they are harvested.

  • Roger Betz, Farm Business Management Educator for the MSU Extension (which serves Washtenaw County and many adjacent counties) has been advising farmers about how to make sense of a difficult year.  He also points out that experts warn farmers that wet seasons may be the new normal.  Climate change is predicted to bring challenges for Michigan and the Midwest as more frequency and heavy rain events and increase flooding.

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— David Fair is the WEMU News Director and host of Morning Edition on WEMU.  You can contact David at 734.487.3363, on twitter @DavidFairWEMU, or email him at dfair@emich.edu