Farmers across the U.S. are faced with tough decisions this planting season, as President Donald Trump’s trade war with China continues and heavy rains make it difficult to plant crops.
“It’s probably the most complicated decision season I’ve ever seen,” said Wallace Tyner, a professor of agricultural economics at Purdue University, in an interview with The New York Times.
Farmers have only planted two-thirds of the corn they would have been expected to by now, based on the previous five years. Continuous heavy rains mean many farmers still have flooded fields as the window for planting corn is closing.
Climate scientists say it is hard to link a single weather event to climate change, but the continuous rains seen in the Midwest are the result of climate change.
“Overall, it’s climate change,” says Donald Wuebbles, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “We expect an increase in total precipitation in the Midwest, especially in winter and spring, with more coming as larger events.”
China is one of the most important foreign markets for agricultural products from the American Midwest and Trump’s trade dispute is putting pressure on these farmers, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.
The Trump administration has offered assistance payments designed to offset the effects of the trade war. However, those payments will be calculated based on the crops a farmer plants this year, meaning any decreases in planting due to rain will hurt farmers even more.
Don Lehe, a farmer with 5,000 acres near Lafayette, Indiana, told The New York Times he would normally be done planting his corn by now, but this year he has planted just 20% of his crops so far.
Lehe is considering planting soybeans instead of corn, despite the concern about China, because he needs to plant something to avoid losing too much of his yield.
Farmers across the Midwest are feeling the pressures of the rains this year, but scientists are worried about the future. If rains continue to increase in subsequent years, farmers will have to learn to adapt to maintain yields.