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Record-Breaking Rainfall Limits Harvest For Midwest Farmers


Across the Midwest, farmers are under water. Planting season came and went as record-breaking rainfall swept in. Farmers haven't been able to plant the corn and soybean that make their livelihood. And those that did manage to plant will have trouble harvesting much. Kris Swartz is a fifth-generation farmer in Perrysburg, Ohio. And he joins me now to talk about this planting season.


KRIS SWARTZ: Good morning.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So when you look out across your fields, what are you seeing right now?

SWARTZ: Well, right now I'm sitting on my back porch. And I'm looking at one of two corn fields that I got planted, and it's not very pretty. It's very small for this time of year. It's boot-high. And normally, it should be shoulder-high or maybe head-high and six or seven feet tall maybe. And we're at six or eight inches.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Tell me why. What happened?

SWARTZ: We had a really late planting season. I didn't plant till the middle of June. Typically, our corn would go in the middle of May, so we're just really late. We're a delayed planting. It's going to be a delayed harvest. And tons of acres didn't get planted around here.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And was that because of the rains?

SWARTZ: Yeah. We were just consistently too wet. By and large, all the acres that went in around here went in in June. And typically, we're done by about the third week of May.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So what does this mean financially for you?

SWARTZ: Oh, I think it's going to be - for the whole community, it's going to be a devastating, disastrous financial year. There's going to be some producers who really struggle. Some of our input suppliers are going to struggle because they just don't have any material moving through their outlets, so it's going to be a really tough year.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And tariffs in particular are affecting you, aren't they?

SWARTZ: Yeah. You know, the tariffs have been hard on farm - the farm community, I think, you know? - the soybeans especially. China is our big market, and that's kind of gone out the window. So looking for other places to sell soybeans, but it's been kind of hard for the last couple of years if you're a grain crop producer.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: President Trump had promised aid because of the tariffs to people who were impacted by them. Have you received aid because of the tariffs, apart from weather-related aid that may or may not come?

SWARTZ: Not for this year. In 2018, we all - anybody who produced soybeans or - got some - that we are called market facilitation program payments. So, yeah, I received that in 2018.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: But not this year.

SWARTZ: Not this year. They've announced there's going to be a program but not what it's going to be or how much or anything like that. And the other thing is it's really uncertain if those market facilitation programs are going to apply to acres that weren't planted.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I know some people listening to this will say in this era of climate change, it's going to be hard to predict what's going to happen. So how do you move forward in an industry like yours, which is so dependent on the weather and on climate?

SWARTZ: You know, I think, for certain, our weather patterns are changing. You know, we're getting more extreme weather. And we're getting delayed planting seasons, it seems, more often. I think we really have to look at our industry and say, you know, are our practices that we've used in the past adequate in the future? We have less field days, certainly, to be in the field all the time, so we have to go a little faster and do some things different. But I think we really need to look at how we do things and how fast and how efficiently we do things because we just don't have the days to do them like we used to.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's Kris Swartz. He grows corn and soybeans in Perrysburg, Ohio.

Thank you so much.

SWARTZ: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF DISPATCH SONG, "FLYING HORSES") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.