From Across the Field – Don’t Know What We Don’t Know

This spring has really been a moving target with many pieces of the farming puzzle not wanting to fit together in a timely manner. The last couple of days have been as good as any to get into the fields, at least those that are fairly well drained. There have been many discussions among the agricultural community about some of these moving parts; prevented plant, disaster relief, trade aid/Market Facilitation Payment, and switching acres to soybeans. As of today here’s some of what we do know:

  • Due to unusually wet weather planting progress and field work in general has been minimal. The last crop progress report showed just 50% of the Ohio corn crop planted, with the majority being in southern and eastern region of the state.
  • The date for full crop insurance coverage of June 5 has come and gone.
  • Market Facilitation Payments 2.0 will be made in 2019, but not on prevented plant acres.
  • President Trump has signed an agricultural disaster bill, but as of today no declaration regarding Ohio has been made.
  • Weed control and cover crops will play an important role on fallow, prevented plant acres.

It seems that what we don’t know regarding this year’s planting situation has resulted in many questions and a level of uncertainty from farmers trying to make farm management decisions. Some example questions that we don’t have answers to yet, but have received include:

  • How will MFP payments be calculated for each county?
  • Will Ohio or at least affected counties be declared an agricultural disaster?
  • Will the November 1 restriction of harvesting and grazing forage planted on prevented plant acres be lifted?
  • Will there be assistance to implement conservation practices on prevented plant acres?

Many of those unanswered questions require action at either the state or federal levels of government. I’m guessing that our government decision makers were also, not prepared for a spring like this one.

Currently, the suggestion is to stay tuned into to updates, whether they come from Extension, Farm Service Agency, Crop Insurance Agencies, and Soil and Water as we continue to progress through a growing season that has provided some unprecedented challenges.

Changing gears, a topic that I can address with more detail and certainty is the fact that folks love to have songbirds around the landscape, and one of the easiest ways to attract them to a garden or backyard is by putting up a bird feeder.

Hanging feeders will attract species that forage for food in trees and shrubs, where they are accustomed to clinging to swaying branches or hanging upside down to reach food.  Chickadees, titmice, nuthatches, finches, jays, and goldfinches commonly visit such feeders. Fill these feeders with sunflower seeds (hulled seeds for less mess, black sunflower seeds preferred) or the tiny, black thistle seeds. If choosing a mix of seeds, the most popular among birds contains white millet, cracked corn, and sunflower seeds. During the winter, suet in hanging metal cages is a favorite of woodpeckers, titmice, and nuthatches.

Certain species of birds are happier feeding at ground level, such as the cardinals, doves, buntings, juncos, towhees, and sparrows.  Place a hopper feeder in an open area to attract juncos and sparrows. Use caged hoppers to prevent unwanted visitors such as squirrels and raccoons from getting into the hopper. When a ground feeder is placed near shrubs and bushes, towhees and catbirds are more comfortable popping out to fill their stomachs. Fill ground feeders with seed mixes of cracked corn, millet, and sunflower seeds.

When attracting birds with feeders, the bottom line is diversity. The above are just a few tips, but by all means get creative with design, placement, and the food offered. Then sit back and watch the birds fly in!  I’ll end this week with a quote from Benjamin Franklin: “Well done is better than well said.” Have a great week.

Garth Ruff,
Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension Educator
OSU Henry County Extension

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