Heavy rain punishing local farmers

GLEN – Portions of a freshly planted field sit wallowing in muddy water, thanks to Mother Nature.

Farmer Harold “Butch” Bellinger of Glen has been fighting the weather all season, with rain and flooding on portions of his field making it difficult to grow and tend to his corn and hay.

According to Bellinger, rainfall and cool temperatures early in the growing season have made growing corn difficult. Mud from the rain and the lack of sunshine has made some of his fields impossible to maintain.

“It’s so wet we can’t even get back on the corn fields to spray for weeds,” Bellinger said.

“[Corn] should be 1 1/2 to 2 feet tall,” Bellinger said, but some of his plants are only about 6 inches tall.

“Some of it didn’t grow at all,” he said this week.

Standing in his field Tuesday, Bellinger pointed out that one of his corn fields, up on a hill, had managed to get good drainage, and it was growing at a steady pace. However, in a lower field, water has formed a pool near the edge of a field. Bellinger thinks the rest of the field, which was planted recently, will grow, but the portions underwater are lost.

He said roughly two-thirds of his crop will be ready to harvest, but he is keeping an eye on some fields, mainly one located near the Mohawk River.

Fulton County Farm Bureau Vice President Lee Hollenbeck, who owns a farm in Broadalbin, said local farmers aren’t the only ones suffering from the weather.

“Just about all of them, it’s not just here,” Hollenbeck said.

Hollenbeck said the rain has been bad enough in some portions of the state that crops on hills have been washed away, such as in Herkimer County.

“We have had such tremendous rainfall it has just washed away [fields],” Hollenbeck said.

New York’s representatives in the U.S. Senate, Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, have written to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to urge the U.S. Department of Agriculture to issue a disaster declaration and expedite assistance for upstate farmland damaged by heavy rain and flooding, including the local area.

“When New York’s farmers struggle, our entire economy struggles,” said Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee. “Heavy rain and flooding are leaving farms across New York state under water, damaging crops and costing farmers their business. We need any available federal resources on the ground without any delay so we can clean up, rebuild, and get our farmers back on the move.”

Local farmers Hollenbeck and Bellinger said hay crops have been affected along with corn.

Steve Ammermon, spokesman for the New York State Farm Bureau, said while many farms were ready for a second cutting of hay, farmers could not get to the fields or could not cut due to the moisture.

Bellinger said the ground has been too wet to cut hay. Hollenbeck said that generally, you can have multiple cuttings of hay in a season, around three or four.

Bellinger said he has been able to get a single cutting done, but going back out while the ground is still wet could drag more moisture up or just ruin the crop.

“The best yield is around the 10th of June, and we are well past that,” Hollenbeck said.

Ammermon said this could add to concerns of an increase in the cost of feed for local dairy or cattle farmers. Further, he said there could be a potential increase in seed corn prices.

Ammermon said there are programs to help, however. The Farm Service Agency, a federal program, could assist farmers though various means.

“There are crop insurance programs available,” he said.

Montgomery County Farm Bureau President Martin Kelly said recovering this season may not be possible for many farms.

“It’s not a good point in time for farming right now,” Kelly said.

The last three growing seasons have shown trouble. In 2011, Hurricane Irene damaged much of the area around Montgomery County due to high water and rainfall. In 2012, a drought hit the state, with little rainfall occurring.