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'This is historic'

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WORKING: With rain threatening, a farmer works in a field on June 5, off State Road 19 south of Peru.
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TALE OF TWO FIELDS: Corn grows next to an empty field with standing water off of Frances Slocum Trail on Wednesday. With an unusually wet spring, farmers have had a hard time getting crops planted.

BY JARED KEEVER - jkeever@perutribune.com

After an incredibly rainy spring, recent sunny weather has given Hooiser farmers the opportunity to make some progress getting crops planted, but for many who had hoped to get corn in the ground, the sunshine came too late.

“It just stayed too wet for too long,” Troy Hattery, a Mexico area farmer, told the Tribune on Wednesday.

Hattery said he got about 70 percent of his corn planted this year.

That is about where the United States Department of Agriculture estimates Indiana farmers sit right now.

A June 10 report from the USDA estimated 67 percent of the state’s corn had been planted for the week ending on June 9. That was up from 31 percent the week before.

It was significant progress, according to the report that said farmers had taken advantage this past week of “the most days suitable for fieldwork thus far this season.”

But it still leaves them well behind last year which saw 100 percent of corn in the ground by this point and even plenty behind the five-year average of 98 percent.

“This is historic,” Hattery said, predicting problems down the road.

That will come mainly because much of the area’s corn does not get shipped out of the area, but instead goes to feed livestock and to the ethanol plants.

“We better hope that the crop that we do have planted does very well,” he said.

Hattery said that delayed planting can be mitigated to some extent. For instance, farmers can switch to a corn with a shorter growing season.

“We’ve already done that,” he said.

The problem at this point is that many fear they are running out of time for the corn to mature before they risk hitting the first frost.

For those who don’t want to risk it, they give up on the corn and move on to making sure they get their soybeans planted. That’s what many of the people Hattery has talked to are doing.

“We can plant soybeans clear up to the first week of July without much risk,” he said.

Cory Roser, an extension educator, at the Purdue Extension Office, said not everyone is giving up on the corn just yet.

“Some are and some aren’t,” he said. “It’s definitely a toss up right now.”

Roser said he estimated that Miami County was lagging slightly behind the state and figured about 50 percent of the acreage set aside for corn was planted here.

“Mexico could plant, because they are up on sand,” he said, noting that it drains better than clay soil. “But the rest of the county is not on sand.”

Whether farmers still look to get corn planted, Roser said, will have to do with whether they can collect on crop insurance because the weather prevented planting.

If they can’t, “that might push farmers to really get it in the ground because they don’t have a choice,” he said.

“I have had just as many say they are going to plant as have said they aren’t going to plant,” he added.

The ones who don’t this year, though, are certainly going to contribute to a different looking landscape through the summer months.

“There will be a lot of fields that just don’t have a crop in them,” Hattery said.