SHIAWASSEE COUNTY — Farmers in Michigan and Shiawassee County are getting ready for planting season, and are hoping 2020 is better than 2019.

Joel Johnson, executive director of the Michigan USDA Farm Service Agency, said a lot would have to go wrong for 2020 to be worse than last year.

In Shiawassee County and across Michigan, an extremely wet spring in 2019 delayed planting.

“We’re certainly hoping for a better year,” Johnson said. “Of course, with any predictions you don’t know until you get it. Meteorologists are concerned we could have another wet spring. There are those concerns.

“We’re hoping it will dry off sooner this year, for ample time for planting. We’d like to dry off and have a good year. Last year was very difficult for farmers. They had an awful time getting crops in, and had an awful time harvesting,” he said.

Another topic that hits home with farmers in the area are the tariffs PresidentDonald Trump imposed in 2019 on Chinese goods, which sparked retaliatory tariffs on American goods and produce in response.

Johnson said he believes the tariffs were a necessary move by the president, and federal subsidies for farmers have somewhat offset the effects of the Chinese tariffs. Trump has repeatedly promised government aid to American farmers negatively impacted by tariffs.

“I can tell you that we’ve heard good reports from farmers, in that the Marketing Facilitation Program has been very helpful,” Johnson said. “The administration has had to drive a hard bargain to get China under control with their trade practices. Any time you try to get something under control, it can get messy — and it did.

“And what he administration said was these retaliatory tariffs have come back to hurt farmers, and we’re not making farmers foot the whole bill. The MFP program is to help them through a difficult time, and to help cover some of the costs they endured becuase of drops in market prices for their crops. It was specifically designed to help with the crops impacted by retaliatory tariffs,” he said.

Johnson urged area farmers to take advantage of other government initiatives, such as the Agriculture Risk Coverage and Price Loss Coverage programs. Those programs provide a safety net for farmers in the event of a less than expected crop yield, or market prices go down.

Johnson said the Conservation Reserve Program is another effort farmers can utilize to offset potential losses. The program is designed to reduce erosion, help farmers protect fields, and increase habitat for endangered and threatened species.

“Reducing erosion near water bodies is a big issue this year,” Johnson said. “We really encourage farmers who have sensitive areas on their farms to look at these programs and talk to their county offices, and find ways to protect their farm fields from erosion, sediment and nutrients leeching into the water. This is an important opportunity to help with some of those voluntary conservation methods that can improve water quality.”

For more information on government programs, visit fsa.usda.gov, or call the USDA Farm Service Agency Shiawassee County office at (989) 723-8263.

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