VDACS board members see dim start for season’s crops

AFP Correspondent

RICHMOND, Va. (June 7, 2016) — Members of the Board of Agriculture at the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services discussed the impact of prolonged wet weather among other things when they gathered on May 26.
Their comments, reported by Elaine Lidholm, director of communications for VDACS, points to a challenging year for the agricultural industry.
The members come from across the state so their comments provide a broad view of conditions caused by the weather many are calling weird.
While many crops are affected by this spring’s weather, cotton may be the one facing the most trouble, board members said.
Clifton Slade of Surry said sustaining cotton is the biggest worry he has seen in his lifetime. Shelly Barlow of nearby Suffolk said both cotton and peanuts are in trouble.
One farmer, Mac Berryman, planted corn in a blizzard this year.
“I’ve never seen a better stand of corn,” Slade said. Lidholm said he attributed the success to superb corn seed and GPS guidance that enabled him to run in the snowstorm.
“April and May got their wires crossed,” Rosalea Potter of Lexington said. “This was a year when we didn’t need any extra challenges and we’ve had nothing but extra challenges.” She said the wet, cold spring has caused a three week delay in most crops.
“An emotional spring,” is the way Robert J. Mills Jr., board vice president, of Pittsylvania County described the 2016 season. “April was dry, then rain, rain, rain.”
Mills painted a depressing picture in his county, saying the quantity of grass is great but the quality is down; harvest of hay is two weeks behind; only 43 percent of tobacco has been planted compared to the usual 85 percent.
Late planting creates the danger of frost hitting the crop.
He said little cotton and soybeans have been planted because it is too wet and additional nutrients will be needed.
“Our farmers are in a survival mode, day-by-day, not week-by-week,” Mills said.
Bryan Taliaferro of Center Cross on the Northern Neck said that 8 inches of rain fell at the Virginia Tech Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Warsaw in May.
Saluda, Va., got nine inches, which is 300 percent of normal.
He said his farm got 232 percent of normal rainfall for May.
In the Lexington area, Potter said the May rains have put small grains behind and corn planting is late. She sees poultry still thriving with younger farmers indicating a desire to raise poultry.
Potter added meat prices are slowing down in warmer weather; however she sees farmers’ markets vendors keeping meat processors busy during the summer.
Shelly Butler Barlow of Suffolk, Va., said she expects farmers to plant some alternate crops.
She said corn there looks fairly good and small grains are okay. She said small-scale producers like strawberry growers are also facing weather challenges.
Wheat appears to be a crop that is affected by the weather. Taliaferro reported the disease of scab and head blight are hitting the crop.
Both fruits and vegetables seem to be taking hits as well.
Wayne Kirby of Hanover reported vegetable growers are dealing with disease and may have to abandon their initial plantings.
He added some have given up on disease control.
In the Shenandoah Valley in Winchester, John Marker said corn planting is only 50 percent done and no beans had been planted.
He said small grains there are OK and hay is two weeks behind.
Two freezes on peaches have resulted in about 75 percent crop losses.
He said damage to apples varies by variety with Red Delicious being hurt.
In the wake of fighting through the weather related challenges, the farmer board members said there was a lot of the growing season left to go.
“We shift gears, we persevere,” Barlow said.
Kirby put it a little differently, saying “but the sun is shining today, so maybe we can turn things around.”