Over the past three years, Michigan's $64 billion agricultural industry has encountered many unfavorable weather conditions for yielding a favorable number of crops. In January of 2009, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) gave low-interest emergency loans to eligible Michigan farmers whose crops suffered unfavorable weather conditions in 2008. According to the Michigan Department of Agriculture (MDA), the USDA's 2008 designated impact covered 80 of Michigan's 83 counties (Michigan Department of Agriculture).
The USDA's 2008 designated impact covered 41 Michigan counties for frost and freeze weather that occurred during the months of March through May. In addition to frost and freeze weather, 28 counties were eligible for loans due to storms that caused excessive rain, flooding, and high winds which began on April and ended in September. The summer of 2008 was also well known for its drought which directly impacted 46 counties and an additional 24 neighboring counties were eligible for USDA assistance. Farmer's had until August of 2009 to apply for loans to cover up to 100% of weather related crop losses (Michigan Department of Agriculture).
In 2009, Michigan experienced a wonderful fruit season with a near record level of apple yields. Based on federal data, the state harvested 1.15 billion pounds of apples and 208 million pounds of tart cherries. On average, apples contribute approximately $700-$900 million to the state's economy. Field crops did not perform nearly as well as fruit. According to the Michigan Farm Bureau, the USDA designated 74 Michigan counties as, "primary natural disaster areas due to ‘freeze, frost, excessive snow, low temperatures, and cold weather'"(Michigan Farm News). Towards the end of the summer in August, many counties also experienced an early frost.
Besides cold weather effects, other counties from April 1 through September 1 suffered from excessive rain and flooding in addition to lightning, hail, high winds, and tornadoes. From May 2009 through the fall season, a number of counties battled with drought. All of these disasters have resulted in a loss of revenue for farmers and the state (Michigan Farm News).
This year, farmers have experienced mixed results. Michigan's fruit crops did not fare as well as last year due to a cold spring and late frosts. Michigan's field crops fared much better than last year despite a number of strong storms and some cooler than typical temperatures. The ground thawed early this year enabling farmers to plant their crops earlier than usual (Devaney and Rogers). According to the Michigan Field Office of the National Agricultural Statistics Service, since September 26, farmers were able to harvest 19% of Michigan's corn crop and 17% of Michigan's soybean crop. At the same time last year, farmer's harvested 0% of Michigan's corn crop and only 1% of Michigan's soybean crop.
All of these numbers yield good news for Michigan's field crops, but there have been a few catches. Farmers in southern Michigan have been less fortunate with field crops due to constant battles with excessive early rain and drought in other instances (Michigan Farmer). This years loss of fruit crops has resulted in lost revenue. With three years of tough weather and mixed crop results the ultimate question remains as to whether or not Michigan can make up for its lost agricultural revenue.
Michigan Department of Agriculture. 1/26/09
Michigan Farm News. 10/15/10
Michigan Farmer. 10/5/10
Tim Devaney and Christina Rogers. The Detroit News. 8/24/10
West Michigan Tourist Association