Weather wreaks havoc on Wisconsin farms as Gov. Scott Walker declares a state of emergency for state's northernmost counties

Colleen Kottke
Wisconsin State Farmer

After enduring a late start to the planting season due to a late spring, many farmers across the state let out a sigh of relief. Perhaps they had turned a major corner and the growing season was finally underway.

Torrential downpours in northern Wisonsin have caused trouble in northern WI counties. This photo provided by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation shows

Mother Nature, however, always has the final say. While some farmers were eager for some moisture, others in the northern part of the state were devastated by torrential rain, damaging wind and large hail that caused mud slides and flash flooding.

In fact, Gov. Scott Walker declared a state of emergency for Ashland, Bayfield, Burnett, Douglas and Iron counties following the severe thunderstorms that rolled across the state over the weekend.

Reporters from Bayfield and Douglas counties said substantial rainfall that produced flooding throughout the area, noting that it was still too early to calculate crop damage, according to the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service Wisconsin Crop Progress & Condition report.

The week ending on June 17, brought hot, humid conditions and spotty thunderstorms to much of the state. Rainfall totals varied from a trace to nearly 7 to 12 inches. On Monday, the National Weather Service extended a flood warning through Thursday for northwestern Wisconsin and neighboring areas in Minnesota.

Columbia County reported heavy localized rains over the weekend that also produced flooding and erosion on low-lying areas in fields.

"Rainfall amounts from 2-5 inches fell over a period of 2 hours on Saturday night," the reporter said. "Scattered rain showers also caused challenges for farmers trying to bale dry hay."

In some parts of the state, corn has already caught up, and at times, surpassed last year's development at this time.

In Marquette and Waushara counties, some farmers got too much rain and some not enough.

"Hot and dry conditions took a toll on areas with no rain. Some areas got 4 plus inches of rain and some got nothing," the reporter noted.

Out in the farm fields, there was 5.3 days suitable for fieldwork. Planting was largely completed this week, with producers putting in the last few fields of soybeans and corn silage.

Haying and spraying were major field activities early in the week as sunny weather dominated much of the forecast, until rain showers moved into the state at the end of the week.

Heat and moisture boosted crop development, particularly in northern and central Wisconsin where soils have been dry.

Prior to receiving much needed rainfall, the reporter up in Clark, Price and Taylor counties said pastures were stagnating and hay yields were down due to dry conditions. 

Over near Lake Michigan in Manitowoc County, farmers received 1.5 inches of much needed rain.

"That was the first measurable rain since before Memorial Day," said the reporter. "Not saying that completely saves crops, but is sure did help before the heat over the weekend."

Crops in some areas of the state, including Waupaca and Eau Claire counties have caught up or exceeded normal expectations for mid-June.

"Most corn will be waist high by the Fourth of July," the Eau Claire reporter observed.

Corn emerged was reported at 96 percent, four days ahead of last year and 8 days ahead of the five-year average. Ninety-six percent of the state's soybeans are in the ground with 88 percent of the crops reported as emerged.

While two days behind last year's crop, 72 percent of the winter wheat is headed with 4 percent coloring. Oats emerged was at 97 percent, 33 percent of the crop headed, according to the report.

"Crop growth continues to progress nicely as most corn is in the V5 to V6 stage," noted the Chippewa County reporter. "Soybeans are in the V2 stage with many fields receiving herbicide application. Other than weeds, not much pest activity has been seen in crops."

The first cutting of alfalfa was reported at 85 percent complete, two days behind last year but a week head of the average. Farmers were just getting started on the second crop.

The hay condition was reported as 86 percent in good to excellent condition.