Though some creekside farms lost land wholesale during last week’s blast of rainfall, the entire region’s farmers are facing a slow-moving disaster themselves due to wet fields and crops.
Montgomery County Soil and Water Conservation District Manager Corey Nellis surveyed the entire Otsquago Creek watershed and found severe damage at two farms — both along Route 80, which follows the creek’s path.
One lost several acres of corn and sustained damage to the farmhouse, the other had significant pasture and fencing damage, he said.
But overall, the June 28 storm that affected more than 200 homeowners in Montgomery County and beyond didn’t wipe out the agriculture industry — it merely made it even wetter than it was before.
Nellis said the Soil and Water Conservation office’s rain gauge read 9.6 inches for the month, compared with an average for June of 3.5 inches.
It’s left the fields unworkable and the crops in poor shape, he said. “You can’t get the hay off and the corn that’s planted is just stagnant.”
The fact that the ground is saturated, Nellis said, played a role in the flooding damage, and will be a key factor in the fate of this year’s crops.
“If things don’t change here, we could have a ton of rot in the fields,” he said.
The North Country is facing the same situation due to incessant rainfall, according to David Holck, director of the Saratoga-Warren-Washington County Farm Service Agency Office.
“Basically the entire area has had too much rain,” he said.
He said he’s received no reports of farms losing land to flooding, but some farmers can’t get crops into the wet, soggy ground without wrecking the fields or getting stuck.
“There’s a lot of farmers that have been unable to plant their corn,” Holck said.
Hay that should have been cut by the end of May is still in the ground in some places, and losing more nutritional value each day it stays there.
“There’s a lot of it, but it’s high in fiber and low in protein,” Holck said.
The abundance of marginal hay will translate to farmers needing to buy grains — an expensive commodity right now — in order to meet the nutritional needs of their livestock.
Holck said some farmers who are waiting to plant could get pushed to the point where it’s uncertain they’ll have a harvest.
Corn takes 100 days to mature, for example, so anyone planting it this late will have to hope for a late first frost, he said.
“You’re taking a gamble, and the odds are more in nature’s favor,” he said.
Federal legislators this week asserted that heavy rain in the region — as much as 15 inches since mid-May — has risen to the level of a disaster.
U.S. Sens. Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., issued a joint news release earlier this week urging federal officials to issue an agricultural disaster declaration.
“When New York’s farmers struggle, our entire economy struggles,” Gillibrand said in the release. “Heavy rain and flooding are leaving farms across New York state underwater, damaging crops and costing farmers their business. We need any available federal resources on the ground without any delay so we can clean up, rebuild and get our farmers back on the move.”