Farmers anticipating good growing year
ARENAC COUNTY — With warmer temperatures right around the corner, local farmers are getting ready to get their work underway.
According to Arenac County Farm Bureau President Kevin Noffsinger, the fair amount of precipitation the area has received over the winter was needed to help shore up the depleted subsoil moisture after last year’s dry conditions.
“We’re hoping for a good year weather-wise, and hopefully Mother Nature is halfway decent to us and gives us a little more water than we got last year,” Noffsinger said. “Hopefully it’s a decent year.”
He said while this area was not hard hit by last year’s drought —it was dry, but not disastrously so — crops in southern Michigan and the rest of the country suffered. This raised the prices of cash crops, which helped the farmers in Arenac County get new farming equipment for this year.
Noffsinger is concerned about the warming and freezing trend the area has experienced over the winter, however. He said getting snow and ice, followed by rain and temperatures warm enough to cause it to melt, is problematic when it freezes over again. He said the winter wheat could suffer for lack of oxygen while trapped under all the ice and water.
Planting for most farmers will likely begin in April like normal, he said, once the frost has left the ground and it has started to get drier.
“This is the time of year when the sun is starting to shine and temperatures are getting warmer,” he said. “So guys are getting out into the sheds and changing oil and getting things ready to go for April.”
Which crops get planted, and when, is dependent on weather conditions. Sugar beets are less sensitive to the cold than corn or beans, and Noffsinger said sugar beet farmers tend to plant those as soon as the ground is dry enough, generally in mid-April. Corn will usually get planted around April 20 through the first week of May, and soybeans typically follow in mid-May.
“Some guys will put soybeans in the first week of May, but typically I like to see it a bit warmer for soybeans,” he said. “It takes a higher temperature to germinate a soybean. It’s the same with beets. They will germinate at 42 degrees. Corn is 50 degrees, and beans are a little higher than that. That’s why you start with beets and switch over.”
Some farmers will also grow dry beans, such as black beans, small red beans, and navy beans. He said he will usually plant those around the last week of May or first week of June, since they are more sensitive to cold weather shifts.
Noffsinger said that weather is expected to be less dry this year, and futures prices have fallen accordingly. Futures are traded based on the expected future cost of goods, and he said more acres of crops are being predicted for this year, reducing the futures prices of crops such as corn, soybeans and sugar beets.
In case of unexpected cold snaps or another drought, Noffsinger said he has signed up for crop insurance, which will allow him to recoup some of his losses if the crop dies due to poor weather conditions. Beyond that, he said there are not many things a farmer can do.
“Farmers are eternal optimists,” he quipped. “It’s hard. You try to do everything right when you do it, and keep your fingers crossed and hope Mother Nature treats you halfway well.”
While he is familiar with farmers in Bay County and surrounding areas who irrigate, Noffsinger said not many farmers in Arenac County bother. Low lake levels are impacting those who do, however, and he said the ones who get their water from the Saginaw Bay are concerned they may need to extend their pipes to get the water they need.
With dropping futures prices, Noffsinger said farmers who locked in their purchasing contracts last year or early this year will likely get more money for their crops than those who do so now. If there is a bumper crop, those prices could fall even further; a situation he said is great for dairy and beef farmers, but unwanted for cash crop farmers like himself.
Nevertheless, as long as the weather is wetter than last year, he expects local farmers should have a good year ahead of them.