Corn is king — of comebacks

Crop exceeds projections, but soybeans still striving to catch up

Corn emerges from the soil. It’s not quite up to usual levels, but it’s making up ground. (Creative Commons)

Corn emerges from the soil. It’s not quite up to usual levels, but it’s making up ground. (Creative Commons)

By Ted Cox

Corn is king — of comebacks, when it comes to this spring’s miserable planting season.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture released acreage figures Friday that found that — after weeks lagging behind the usual schedule, delayed by persistent rain and flooding — corn planting will actually exceed last year’s acreage nationally and remain level in Illinois.

The USDA found corn planted for all purposes rose from 89.1 million acres last year to 91.7 million acres, remaining level at 11 million acres in Illinois, second in the nation behind Iowa’s 13.6 million acres.

The USDA crop progress report issued Monday found that as of the end of last week 89 percent of the corn crop had emerged, off the 100 percent charted each of the last five years at this point in the season, but up from 84 percent the week before.

Some 39 percent of the Illinois corn crop was rated “fair,” 36 percent “good,” with 14 percent “poor” and an additional 5 percent “very poor.”

Soybean acreage, however, dropped 10 percent from last year across the nation, from 89.2 million acres to 80 million, and was off a half-million acres in Illinois from 10.8 to 10.3 million acres. The crop progress report found 87 percent of the soybean crop planted, up from 79 percent the week before, but the entire crop was not only planted but had sprouted at this time last year. Only 78 percent of the crop had emerged from the ground by Friday, up from two-thirds reported the week before. Some 39 percent of the Illinois soybean crop was rated “fair” and another 38 percent “good,” but 13 percent was rated “poor” and another 4 percent “very poor.”

The wavering figures left agriculture experts surprised, on the strength of the corn crop, but also somewhat befuddled, especially as the USDA announced it would resurvey 14 states in August, including Illinois.

“I’ve been doing this for 25 years, and this is the most confusing set of numbers I’ve ever seen come out,” Karl Setzer, an AgriVisor commodity-risk analyst, told the RFD Radio Network. “They keep telling us, ‘We will resurvey this and resurvey that.’ What are you going to resurvey from? That’s what is confusing us on all of this.”

USDA Undersecretary of Agriculture Bill Northey told reporters earlier this week after the latest crop progress report was released that prevented-planting claims for crop insurance could exceed $1 billion nationwide.

“It would not be out of line to suggest it could easily exceed 10 million acres,” Northey said. According to, he described planting conditions as “worse than anything we’ve seen in the last 10 years.”

Setzer, however, was bullish on the crop’s continued ability to come back, especially with warm, sunny weather forecast over the Fourth of July holiday. “All things considered, we have near-perfect conditions coming at us for corn production,” he said. “The crops that are planted will benefit from it. I actually wouldn’t be surprised in our weekly crop condition report if we don’t see the corn and soybean rating improve a little bit.”