American farmers are set to leave a record number of acres without corn.
And now they face the prospect of also failing to plant soybeans because of rampant rainfall.
The Corn agrobusiness
“Corn’s not supposed to be this tall” in mid-June, McCune, who can trace his family’s farm roots as far back as 1857, said. “It’s supposed to be this tall,” as he gestures just below his waist.
Just a little bit west, this is the normal scene. A few more of the taller #corn fields (pictures) are starting to pop up now. Not many though. Not seeing many #soybeans either. Lots of corn, if emerged. Still the random unworked field here and there. pic.twitter.com/mNzyhEAhc7— Karen Braun (@kannbwx) June 20, 2019
Conditions and morale are so low in McCune’s area of northwestern Illinois, typically the second-biggest corn-producing state, that he organized a get-together Thursday evening at The Happy Spot, a restaurant and bar in Deer Grove, Whiteside County. About 125 farmers and others tied to the industry turned out for chicken and beer at the event, dubbed “prevent plant party,” in reference to acreage left unsown this season.
“It’s going to be a train wreck,” McCune said.
The headwinds growers are facing are multiple. Record rain has flooded Midwest streets and snarled Mississippi River traffic, crucial to delivering inputs that farmers need and a major artery in helping them ship products.
Stalled corn plantings forced the U.S. Department of Agriculture to cut its harvest estimates in its June report, only the fourth time since 2000 that the government has taken such action in that month’s data.
Standing at an intersection near Somonauk in N Illinois. Tiny #corn in the first field, nothing in the next two, and really nothing in the last. A tractor was stuck in the mud in field 2 and a planter sat idle in field 3. This is fairly representative of this area. pic.twitter.com/Ev4D6e9xW8— Karen Braun (@kannbwx) June 20, 2019
McCune, and other farmers at The Happy Spot, said the report still doesn’t fully capture how bad this year’s crop will be. He says the weather allowed him to plant just 950 acres (384 hectares) of corn on the 6,000 acres he operates.
Bryan Snetcher, a third-generation farmer from Shannon, Illinois, said that while he was finally able to get his crop planted, it has been a huge battle.
“You spend a week” on the land “and then it rains three days and a week later you’re doing it all over again,” Snetcher said. “Just tired of dealing with the mud this year.”
Besides the rain, farmers have borne the brunt of President Donald Trump’s trade war with China. McCune and Snetcher are among farmers that support Trump’s moves, citing unfair trade practices by the Asian nation. The administration is preparing a second round of tariff-aid payments to farmers, as well as looking into freeing up funds for growers claiming what’s known as prevented plant insurance and who sow an eligible cover crop.
Mark Wetzell, a farmer from Tampico, Illinois, warned that the impact on the Corn Belt will be long lasting. He was able to plant 75% of his roughly 1,000 acres. “It’s going to take people a couple of years to get right.”
Pete Christensen, a fourth-generation grower who runs 2,500 acres, says he was unable to plant a third of his crop this year. Christensen says farmers don’t want to rely on insurance, in the same way someone with car insurance only makes a claim in the event of an accident.
What’s more, several farmers said that even once the soaked corn is harvested, they’re going to incur costs associated with having to dry it out.
CPC’s outlook for July: Cool and wet in the Midwest and Plains. Cooler temperatures would not accelerate the development of late-planted #corn and #soybeans (of which there are many). #agwx pic.twitter.com/5KsGViDe9A— Karen Braun (@kannbwx) June 20, 2019
Dan Koster, who traces his family’s farming roots back to Germany before his forefathers migrated to the U.S., said some farmers won’t make it through this acute downturn.
“Everything comes from land and feeds our small towns, our elevators, fertilizer business, seed business, machinery business, all that,” Koster said. “So there’s that ripple effect that’ll effect all those guys.”
The Soybean agrobusiness
It’s not only corn! American farmers now face the prospect of also failing to plant soybeans because of rampant rainfall.
Growers are expected to file insurance claims on 2.2 million unplanted soybeans acres, or about 890,000 hectares, according to the average estimate among analysts. While some farmers still have time to plant, the estimate would be just below the record of 2.23 million acres that couldn’t be plant with soy in 2015.
Here’s the rest of the #CropWatch19 #soybeans. Minn. was first to plant this year (May 14, 9 days earlier than last year), but the beans are still smaller because they’ve been lacking heat. The Kansas beans were planted nearly a month later than last year. pic.twitter.com/SbnGNIw5QQ— Karen Braun (@kannbwx) June 18, 2019
For corn, the survey of 19 analysts predicted so-called prevented-plant acres would total a record 6.7 million acres, up from the average in a May 30 Bloomberg poll of about 6 million.
The wettest 12 months on record have already prompted the U.S. Department of Agriculture to scale back its domestic corn harvest estimate earlier in the year than normal.
The agency has signaled it may lower its estimate for American soybean in a report due July 11.
The rest of the route had little or no visible standing water. The red part had some #corn up but absolutely no #soybeans in sight. Didn’t even look like many were planted. I saw field after field that looked like this, not sure what had taken place there: pic.twitter.com/IJ5AXwTeuy— Karen Braun (@kannbwx) June 19, 2019
“The forecast is still not good,” said Sara Menker, chief executive officer of Gro Intelligence, an agricultural analysis firm that uses artificial intelligence and machine learning.
The outlook for rain was butting up against deadlines for planting in insurance policies that cover crop losses or declines in prices at harvest, she said.
“They weren’t able to plant the corn and now they aren’t able to plant the beans,” said Will Osnato, a senior analyst at Gro Intelligence. Areas with the biggest risk of acreage loss include central Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota and South Dakota. “It takes time for fields to dry. We are not getting a dry period that’s long enough for plantings.”