Numbers released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture confirm what many U.S. farmers already knew: The weather has made this year the worst planting season on record.
Fortunately, that hasn't been the case here in Northeast Florida.
Heavy rainfall, flooding and other adverse events prevented more than 19.4 million acres of crops from being planted across the country, most significantly in the Midwest, which saw a sharp decline in corn, soybean and wheat. Among the hardest-hit states were Ohio, Arkansas, Michigan and Mississippi, according to the USDA data.
Florida did not fare nearly as badly but did see 2,384 acres that normally would be planted with crops lain fallow this year, including 644 acres of oats and 20 acres of corn. In the worst-hit county in Florida, Columbia County, insured farmers were prevented from planting on 3 percent of the county's agricultural land.
In St. Johns County, USDA data shows just 65 acres of its 4,691 total acres of farmland went unplanted.
In an interview with The Record on Wednesday, Danny Johns, owner of Blue Sky Farms in Hastings, said that given the type of crops grown most commonly here, "We were done with most of our harvest by then [earlier in the season], and the weather this summer hasn't been bad."
An abnormally hot May, however, did affect the quality of Johns' potatoes.
According to the USDA, 1.37% of crops planted in St. Johns County failed this season.
Numbers collected from neighboring Putnam tell a similar story, with a nominal 224 of 4,832 total acres unplantable. The failure rate of crops there was 4.43%.
Johns, who was visiting farms in Oklahoma this week, said he'd heard stories about the challenges faced by the agricultural community there. But, Johns said, farmers seemed to be rebounding and that he'd seen some "real nice watermelons and sweet potatoes" on his trip.
“Agricultural producers across the country are facing significant challenges and tough decisions on their farms and ranches,” USDA Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation Bill Northey said in a news release. “We know these are challenging times for farmers, and we have worked to improve flexibility of our programs to assist producers prevented from planting.”
Nationally, most of the acreage where farmers were prevented from planting due to weather conditions was for corn, at 11.2 million acres, followed by soybeans at 4.4 million acres, the USDA reported. Taking into account all acres where crops either failed or farmers did not plant, Louisiana had the highest percentage of affected agricultural land, followed by Massachusetts and Ohio.
Record Reporter Colleen Michele Jones contributed to this report.