The spring of 2019 will be the gift that keeps on giving for Corn Belt farmers.

This year could be compared to the Preakness horse that threw off his jockey at the starting gate and never caught up with the leaders until the race had ended.

Farmers could not even get out of the starting gate this year, and incessant rains have prevented them from catching up.

While there are three courses of action open to them, none would ever be anyone’s first choice. 

Many will elected to take a crop insurance payment for a portion of expected income, but far less than what they might have netted in a more typical year.  Others have switched to corn that matures quicker, but yields less, and is better suited for weather conditions in northern states.  Yet others are planting conventional maturity corn, hoping for ideal weather and a good yield by early October.

While there is a chance the latter will happen, there is a risk that it won’t and harvest is thrust into late fall, when grain dry-down is foisted by the lack of sun and warm temperatures. 

That gives farmers the undesirable choice of harvesting well beyond the date to be assured of quality dry grain, or being forced to harvest early, and pay for propane to dry grain at home or take a moisture discount at the elevator. 

Neither is a good choice with corn prices below cost of production.

And any delayed harvest, while waiting for crops to mature and dry with the help of Mother Nature, will only prevent normal fall field work that includes tillage of stubble and fertilizer application for 2020 crops. 

That is all because the weather turned ugly in the fall of 2018 and prevented fall field work then, disrupting the farm work schedule 18 months later.

At sometime, farmers will want to get back on track with typical corn and soybean production.

But the forage producers are looking at similar disruptions in their schedule. 

The unusually cold winter and late spring of 2019 killed many alfalfa fields. While that happens from time to time, a hay producer will quickly re-sow an alfalfa crop.  But the continued wet weather this spring has prevented that, and at a time when early first cuttings are being made, alfalfa fields are either sick or dead, and very weedy.

Subsequently, the 2019 hay crop in the Corn Belt will be very diminished, and that means livestock producers who either raise their own, or buy hay from others, will have insufficient amounts to feed, and may be forced to pay unusually high prices, as well as high transportation costs from outside their region.

Poor crops just don’t result from insufficient amounts of rain, but too much rain is also the bane of their existence. 

Farmers did not need 2019 weather when they also are reeling from low markets and high politics.

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Stu Ellis is an observer of the Central Illinois agriculture scene. In addition to his weekly column, you can view his “From The Farm” and “Harvest Heritage” reports on WCIA 3 News.




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