Flooded farm fields in 'unprecedented territory'
Ag expert calls it ‘near catastrophic’ as heavy, persistent rains delay planting
By Ted Cox
Illinois farm fields are in “unprecedented territory” as spring planting has been delayed by continual rain and widespread flooding.
According to the latest U.S. Department of Agriculture report on Crop Progress, issued Tuesday, just over a third of Illinois cornfields were planted as of the end of last week, 35 percent, compared with 99 percent at this time a year ago and 95 percent on average over the last five years.
One-fifth of the state’s corn has emerged, compared with 88 percent of the crop a year ago and an average of 84 percent over the last five years.
The situation was even worse for soybean farmers. Just 14 percent of soybeans were planted, compared with 89 percent last year and 70 percent on average over the last five years. Last year, 72 percent of soybeans had emerged, but this year that figure is just 8 percent, well below even the five-year average of 44 percent.
“It's a real serious situation, and I don't think the industry has been prepared for as bad as it is,” said Bill Biedermann of AgMarket.net in an interview with the RFD Radio Network on Wednesday, passed along by the Illinois Farm Bureau. “The worst part about it is we're in unprecedented territory.”
According to Biedermann, Illinois lags behind the already slow planting nationwide, with only 58 percent of the U.S. corn crop in the ground and 29 percent of U.S. soybeans.
“You've got 4 million acres planted and 7 million to go” statewide, Biedermann said. “That ratio seems a little backwards, and it's a real concern for farmers throughout the Midwest.”
Calling it “a near catastrophic storyline,” he said corn farmers were holding out hope that genetically engineered short-maturity corn could yet save the crop with minimal reductions in bushels per acre. “I say that carefully because the American farmer is unbelievable in what they can accomplish,” Biedermann added.
A smaller survey by Crop Watch, reported by the Reuters news agency, found that as of Sunday a farmer in southeast Illinois had planted 600 acres of corn and 230 acres of soybeans out of the 1,000 and 1,050 planned.
According to Crop Watch, the cutoff date for crop insurance is June 5 in most of Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio, but some corn growers are willing to push past that, again placing their hopes in short-maturity corn.