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Worries at bay, for now, among farmers waiting to start corn crop

Published: Saturday, May 4, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

A return to rainy weather has not yet caused panic among most Kane County farmers.

But give it another couple of weeks, and nagging worries could translate into more drastic actions.

“In another 10 days, guys are going to start to get antsy,” said Scott Meyer, grain merchandiser with agricultural services company, Elburn Cooperative. “After this week, if things haven’t changed much, there could be some decisions made that probably aren’t the smartest.”

For the past month, farmers in Kane County and elsewhere in the Midwest have watched the skies and monitored their soil, waiting for the break in the cold, wet spring weather that will make their fields less muddy and allow them to wheel their planters into fields and start their corn crop.

This spring, however, for most, that opportunity has not yet arrived, as early spring-level temperatures and heavy rainfall have characterized spring.

Typically, farmers in Illinois have planted about 30 percent to 40 percent of the corn crop, according to the U.S. Agriculture Department.

However, only about 1 percent to 2 percent of the crop had been planted statewide this year, according to the USDA’s April 29 crop progress report. 

That’s the lowest percentage of the corn crop planted as of the end of April in the past decade.

In five of the past 10 years, Illinois farmers had planted about 60 percent to 80 percent of the corn crop by that date, according to the USDA.

Meyer said only about 5 percent of the local corn crop had been planted.

“This week is typically a huge week for planting,” Meyer said. 

He noted that expected harvested yields can decrease quickly for each day planting is postponed after about May 15.

Farmer Joe White of Elburn said growers in some parts of the Midwest whose fields are now covered in snow may have difficult decisions to make later – potentially including opting to plant crops less profitable than corn.

But locally, the late-week storms have not been as heavy as forecast, leaving farmers with a better chance of kicking up their planting operations next week.

“And with the planters we use nowadays, it doesn’t take too long to get it done,” White said. “It’s not too terribly late – yet.”

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