Virginia’s amber waves of grain are short 40,000 acres this year thanks to an unusually wet past year.
Compared to a record 19.4 million acres of land nationwide that couldn’t be planted due to weather or natural disaster, that’s a drop in the bucket. But it’s also about eight times higher than the 5,500 acres Virginia farmers were unable to plant in 2018.
The vast majority of Virginia’s unplanted crops this year were intended for wheat, which made up about 39,000 of the state’s 40,000 unplanted acres. Last year, only about 800 acres of wheat weren’t planted, with most of the unseeded acreage slated for corn and soybeans.
So why the sudden jump? Tony Banks, a commodity marketing specialist for the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation, attributed the increase to “excessive rain” that delayed wheat planting beyond the final planting dates set for crop insurance. To receive payments for prevented plantings, farmers must meet federal criteria such as complying with planting deadlines.
“In some instances, like Southside, multiple flooding events prevented planting the fall crops altogether,” Banks said.
Michael Wallace, assistant director of communications for the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, said that besides wet field conditions, “in all likelihood there are many factors involved, but we do not know what those are.”
Catastrophic flooding in the Midwest was responsible for the nationwide surge in prevented plantings, which affected about 17.5 million more acres this year than last year.
In 2017, Virginian farmers planted more than 150,000 acres of wheat, producing over 10 million bushels of the crop.