Wet weather hinders county’s farmers

By Jeff Whitten

Although McNairy County is lucky compared to the areas adjacent to the Mississippi River, recent wet weather is having an adverse impact on farming here.

The county had 12.1 inches of rain in April and continues to have above normal rainfall in May, according to Rhodes Platt, County Director for the McNairy/Chester County Farm Service Agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“They just haven’t got anything planted,” Platt said when asked the effect of the wet weather on the county’s farmers.

According to County Mayor Jai Templeton, who is also a farmer and will become Deputy Commissioner  for the Tennessee Department of Agriculture on June 1, “we don’t have a lot of farm land under water, but we do have some in the southwest part of he county.”

Platt  agreed, saying the main problem is not farmland underwater but wet soil.

The effect of the weather has mainly been on the timing of farming operations.

Most farmers are two to three weeks behind schedule, Templeton said Monday.

“We really need a break in the weather to catch up for lost time,” he said.

Platt echoed this sentiment saying, “We need some dry weather.”

Because cotton and corn should generally be planted by the end of May, weather will mainly affect these crops, Templeton said.

The optimum date for planting corn and cotton is May 20, Platt said.

University of Tennessee Agricultural Extension Agent Ricky Mathenia said the corn crop is normally put to rest by now and the cotton and soybean crop is delayed.

“Every day we wait, we lose opportunity for yield. The clock is ticking,” Mathenia said.

According to Platt, farmers have only planted around 1,500 acres of corn and cotton each, where they would normally have planted around 8 to 9,000 acres of corn and 6 to 7,000 acres of cotton.

The weather will probably cause farmers to plant less of these two crops, Templeton predicted.

Platt said that some of the corn and cotton crops will have to be replanted due to the wet weather.

However, Mathenia pointed out it could have been worse, the rains could have come after a much larger portion of the crops had been planted, requiring more of them to be replanted.

The impact of the wet weather is not limited to farmers but ripples out to include inputs to farming such as fertilizer.

This weather is hurting businesses such as farm cooperatives that provide these inputs.

Farmers as well as suppliers will be hit in the pocketbook by substituting a low-dollar crop like soybeans for high dollar crops like corn, Platt pointed out.

“The bad thing is that commodity prices are at an all-time high,” Mathenia said.

The other type of farming adversely affected by the wet weather is beef production.

Due to the weather, little of the hay that cattle feed on has been cut.

Another important crop in the area, soybeans, has not yet been affected but could be if the wet weather continues, Templeton said.

This is because the planting season for soybeans usually begins in June, he said.

Due to the importance of agriculture in the local economy, what is bad for county farmers is bad for the local economy.