Farmers show Rep. Upton the challenges they're facing this year

NOW: Farmers show Rep. Upton the challenges they’re facing this year


Farmers in Michiana are struggling because the wet weather delayed spring planting. Lawmakers in Washington are trying to find a way to help the farmers.

Extreme weather and persistent heavy rainfall has delayed planting for farmers across the state of Michigan. On Tuesday, Southwest Michigan farmers showed Upton the destructive impact the weather has had on their fields,

“This rain has been something else. Our growers, in so many ways, they’re behind by weeks," said US Representative Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph.

“Right now I’m standing in front of a bunch of tomato plants that probably should have been planted about a week ago," said Fred Leitz of Leitz Farms.

In Michigan, only 64 percent of corn and 43 percent of soybean crops have been planted. This time last year, 88 percent of corn crops had been planted.

“We’re 10 days, two weeks, and some cases three weeks late getting fields planted," said Russell Costanza of Costanza Farms.

Experts say 38 inches of rain have fallen across the state the past 12 months– making it the third wettest year in Michigan’s history.

“This year is worse than ever before. No one remembers a season like this when you had the hard freeze, the polar vortex, which literally wiped out crops, and then you have rain every single day," Upton said.

“Every day you’re late is less production coming up out of that field, and puts you into that fall window where you might have a frost and not have anything to harvest," Leitz said.

The farmers also told Upton about the challenges in the marketplace they're facing, like wages.

“Other countries like Mexico are paying less than $10 a day, and we’re paying $16 an hour," Leitz said.

“The next phase of NAFTA is supposed to be looking at some of these labor issues. They haven’t been resolved yet, up to at least where I think they ought to be," Upton said.

These challenges and the tariff battle with China worry local farmers.

“The possibility of making a profit this year right now, is pretty slim," Costanza said. “October, November you’ll probably see a lot of farms that are up for auction. And who’s going to buy them?"

As you head out to the grocery store, local growers ask for one thing -support.

“Buy local. Buy US product," Costanza said.

“They need to look where the produce is grown, and when they can, buy US," Leitz said.

In June Governor Gretchen Whitmer asked for a USDA Secretarial Disaster Designation for the state because of the challenges facing area farmers.

The following day, the US Department of Agriculture announced it would provide flexibility within Federal Crop Insurance by allowing farmers to hay or graze cover crops planted on prevented plant acres on September 1st, 2019 and that the Farm Service Agency would extend the deadline to report prevented planting acres in select counties.

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