Through a federal records request, The Ohio State University has received a breakdown of Market Facilitation Program payments made in 2018 by county and commodity. Above are the details on the payments received by farmers here in Putnam County as provided by OSU.
Through a federal records request, The Ohio State University has received a breakdown of Market Facilitation Program payments made in 2018 by county and commodity. Above are the details on the payments received by farmers here in Putnam County as provided by OSU.

PUTNAM COUNTY — “It’s making the decision right now very hard,” says Ben Brown, Program Manager for the Ohio Farm Management Program with The Ohio State University. “Because, obviously, [farmers] can’t get into the field and plant. Federal crop insurance actually incentivizes you to just take the crop insurance payment. However, you have to plant something to get the [Market Facilitation Program] payment.”

The MFP payments represent the financial support extended to farmers by the Trump Administration amid the trade war with China. $16 billion was borrowed last year through the USDA’s Commodity Credit Corporation to pay for the bailout. $16,205,093 of which went to farmers here in Putnam County according to information provided by Mr. Brown. This type of financial support was not granted to other industries or economic sectors, such as those that import steel and aluminum for fabrication.

The MFP payments will take place again this year. But, farmers don’t yet know how much those payments might be. “And so, there’s a lot of discussion going-on,” Mr. Brown says, “What should I do?’ Should I take prevented planting? Or, should I go ahead and put something in the ground so I can get my MFP payment?”

This question of whether to plant or not was posed to Denny Schroeder, a Leipsic-area farmer the Sentinel has spoken with before who has been working his land for nearly a half-century.

“We have just 40 acres of corn planted, that’s it.” Mr. Schroeder said on Monday, June 6. “A lot depends on what the weather does here today or tomorrow, but it’s getting real close to the end on the corn, that’s for sure.”

Mr. Schroeder goes on to say that, as a farmer, he very much prefers to plant. Regarding the idea of accepting insurance instead this year, he answers, “Prevented planting is okay, but it’s kind of like someone that gets into a car wreck and it’s not your fault. You get into a wreck, and the insurance company says your car was only worth $5,000, and it’s going to cost you $15,000 to replace it with a similar car. That’s like crop insurance, the way I look at it. It helps, but it’s not a cure.”

And so, does the prospect of another MFP payment his year help motivate him to plant?

“Definitely, yeah,” he answers. “And, a person can switch from corn to soybeans without any penalty on the payment end, really. I think most farmers, they farm. They like to plant. They don’t like to let the fields grow up into weeds during the summer time.”

His reference to a penalty for switching between commodities speaks to changes in MFP payments for 2019. “The 2018 program was based on bushels,” Mr. Brown said during that conversation. “The 2019 program will be based on acres. It’s very different. Because under the 2018 program, it was based on a specific commodity. So, a bushel of soybeans had a payment of $1.65, and a bushel of corn had a $0.01 payment. And so, that’s a big difference. Obviously, there are yield differences, but the bulk of the payments went to soybeans because soybeans had the largest payment.”

“This year, it’s going to be based on acres, and it’s not going to be broken out by commodity…If you have an acres of corn, you’re going to get the same payment as if you have an acre of soybeans, or an acre of wheat, or an acre of cotton.”

Even with this change, Mr. Schroeder’s point about insurance still holds for MFP payments as well. Farmers would still rather make their living selling crops in the marketplace, and not through government bailouts. Payments that won’t, in the end, make up for the loss from the weather or the tariffs. So, the question becomes, what might farmers decide to do without this year? Where will the belt-tightening take place?

“There’s going to be a lot of things that we cut back on, little things,” Mr. Schroeder answers. “We’ll survive. People will support each other. It’s going to be interesting. It’s going to be very interesting with how people adjust to it.”

“People will become very depressed. Just talk to my wife, she’ll say I’m more irritable than I was. Well, I think that’s the way it is…Like with the implement dealers. They’re going to be hurting a lot.”

“I really think there will be some people forced out of business by this. I really think that will happen. And, I shouldn’t say forced. Some will say, ‘I’ve just had enough of this.’ There are ways to work around things, but sometimes the pain isn’t worth the gain.”

“I don’t mean all this quite the way it sounds, but as I told my wife, ‘We love to go over to Henry’s or Bob Evans, two of our favorite places to eat. We’re still going to do that, but maybe we’ll only do it half as much as we did.’ Something like that, it’s a very minor thing, but it kind of [shows what will happen].”