DECATUR — The weather is a fickle partner for farmers, offering promise with spring rains for seeds, then dismay in the fall when unwelcome wetness keeps combines out of the fields during harvest.
Macon County farmers have fared better than their peers in other parts of Illinois, getting their crops mostly out of the field before Gov. Bruce Rauner declared a harvest emergency.
The declaration, which began on Sunday and lasts 45 days, allows drivers of trucks carrying agricultural commodities, such as grain, to get a free permit to exceed gross vehicle limits. Local authorities can also waive the permit requirement.
The harvest emergency was declared mostly for farmers in other parts of the state such as Western and Northern Illinois, which received more rain in recent weeks and still have significant amounts of corn and soybeans in the field, said Tim Stock, executive vice president of the Macon County Farm Bureau. Macon County farmers are mostly done, he said.
“The trucks are making a lot more trips to the elevator,” he said of the reason for the emergency declaration. “So if they have larger loads, they can get more crop out of the field faster.”
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Nov. 6 harvest progress report, 83 percent of corn and 92 percent soybeans have been harvested statewide. This time last year, both crops had been 94 percent harvested. Central Illinois had four days suitable for field work in the week that ended Nov. 5, the report said.
Toward Bloomington, along Interstate 39, there is a good amount of corn and soybeans still in the field, Stock said. Heavy rain in recent weeks is among the reasons for the lag.
Travis Barnes, who farms near Chenoa, northeast of Bloomington, said the declaration will help farmers across the state, especially those with concerns about low yields.
“Someone asked me yesterday why there was still so much corn still in the fields, and I told them it was the same reason why there are still so many leaves left on the trees,” he said. “Mother Nature has had a real impact on the harvest season this year, even though it may not be noticeable to everyone.
"When you don’t have extreme flooding or temperature changes, most people don’t pay much attention. But, when your combine sits idle for a week, you notice those things.”
Each field and crop is different so the harvest days vary, Stock said. Some corn or soybean hybrids take longer to mature and weren’t ready to harvest until later. In addition, the wet spring led to later planting dates or replanting, which delayed the maturing of the crops.
The additional weight trucks can haul varies depending on the weight limits of roads around the state. Under the emergency regulations, each farmer must get a permit to haul more grain at a time, Stock said. A waiver is allowed locally, too.
Farmers with questions can contact the Macon County Farm Bureau or go to their Facebook page for more information, Stock said.
“There is a handful of guys still picking corn right now, and I’m not sure if they are taking advantage of this (emergency declaration) or not,” Stock said. “Harvest is pretty much wrapped up.”
Herald & Review News Service Writer Kevin Barlow contributed to this story.