RAPID CITY, S.D. — Well into this year's planting season, South Dakota farmers are far behind schedule thanks to a historically harsh and wet spring.
According to data released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) this week, South Dakota has less than half of its corn seed planted as of Sunday, June 2, compared to 96% planted by the same time last year. And only 14% of the state's other major crop, soybeans, have been planted, compared to 83% last June.
The delay in planting — or impossibility to plant, at all — is thanks to months of record-breaking harsh weather. After two consecutive winter snow storms in March and April, which flooded the state upon melting, May ushered in more relentless precipitation.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, May marked the second-wettest month nationwide on record. Central South Dakota saw record-breaking precipitation levels last month, and the majority of the rest of the state had above-average or much-above-average precipitation.
In a Wednesday speech on the Senate floor, U.S. Sen. John Thune, R-South Dakota, said for some South Dakota farmers, "this year’s planting season is already over, as their land is completely flooded and will not dry out in time for anything to be planted."
And weather isn't the only force working against the state's producers. Thune said Wednesday that "our nation’s agriculture economy is trailing behind the broader economy," with net farm income half of what it was in 2013 nationwide.
Combined with the weather and low commodity prices, Thune said the agriculture economy's downward trend is due in part to President Donald Trump's months-long trade war, namely with China.
After the USDA on May 23 announced a $16 billion buyout for farmers to offset the tariff war, Thune and his D.C. colleagues U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds, R-South Dakota, and U.S. Rep. Dusty Johnson, R-South Dakota, called upon the Trump Administration to wrap up trade negotiations in order to stabilize the market.
"There is no doubt producers want market access instead of government assistance," Johnson said on the day of the USDA's announcement. Thune called the aid package a "band-aid."
Kristin Wileman, a spokesperson for Republican Gov. Kristi Noem, said in a Friday written statement that Noem "has communicated the critical need for ag disaster assistance at the federal level as well as expanded market access and trade opportunity."
"As a farmer and rancher, Governor Noem understands the difficult plight farmers and ranchers face this year as they struggle with the weather," Wileman said.
Spokesperson for the South Dakota Department of Agriculture Maggie Stensaas said in an emailed statement Friday that, "It has been a tough spring all around." But, with warmer, drier weather across the state for the past few days, she said the department is hopeful that producers were able to get closer to their planting goals.
Stensass said farmers in need should work with their crop insurance agents, agronomists and bankers to work through the difficult season "and, as always, don’t be afraid to think outside the box."