Farmers struggle with this year’s harvest

By Kierra Frazier

Around this time of the year, farmers are usually completing harvest but with a rainy spring and early snowstorms, only 80% of the corn in Illinois has been combined, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service. 

Last November, 99% of corn was harvested in Illinois and the average of harvested corn from 2014 to 2018 was 97%, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service. 

Mark Tuttle, president of the DeKalb County Farm Bureau, said a lot of farmers still need to harvest their soybeans while their corn is also not drying down. He said with the recent propane shortage in Illinois, this sets farmers back even more.  

“We probably have at least 50% to 60% of the corn in the DeKalb area to combine and it’s really making it a struggle for farmers,” Tuttle said. 

Illinois was one of seven states under an emergency declaration over a propane shortage. Demand is high and supplies are low due to delivery issues caused by early winter weather conditions and high moisture grain, according to the Illinois Department of Agriculture. 

Tuttle called this harvest season the “dark harvest” because a lot of farmers will have to work overnight when it’s not raining or snowing rather than during the day.

In May, DeKalb farmers were facing an agriculture crisis due to heavy rains, according to a May 29 Northern Star article. DeKalb received more than six inches of rain in May, which was more than three inches above the normal amount, according to the article.

The heavy rain in May caused Illinois to have only 20% of its corn acreage planted, as of May 26 when the five-year average for May was 86%.

On Aug. 15 the USDA declared all 102 Illinois counties an “agricultural disaster.” The declaration meant farmers were able to apply for federal funds to help recover from the flooding, according to a USDA press release.

Greg Millburg, manager of the DeKalb County Farm Bureau, said with the heavy rain in the early spring and the early snow in the fall, the year is ending as it started. 

“Normally by the end of the year, we’re wrapping up harvest,” Millburg said. “The quality of the crops could be jeopardized as we go forward, the grains that could be coming out of the snow could be wet.” 

Millburg said the cold weather also impacts the crops for next spring because farmers won’t have time to do fieldwork after they get the crop out. 

“The biggest impact of the weather would be the tillage work not getting done this year and it’ll impact the season next year,” Millburg said. “Next year’s a new year. Hopefully, it’ll be a normal spring, and it won’t be a wet spring and we’ll be able to get in there and get a lot of work done.” 

Millburg said last year around Halloween farmers were completing harvest but with the way that the weather is going this year, it could take until December or January.

“If we could have two or three weeks of no snow, sunshine and no rain, we can get a lot done,” Millburg said. 

David Changnon, department chair of the geographic and atmospheric sciences department said the meteorological winter doesn’t start until Dec. 1 despite recent snowstorms. 

“If you look at September and October, in terms of precipitation, they were the second wettest September and October on record for DeKalb,” Changnon said.

Tuttle said farmers need an open window of about 30 days to get their harvesting done since September was a rainy month and the snowstorm in October. 

“The ground was so wet and muddy tractors were getting stuck in the field,” Tuttle said. “We’re only getting maybe 30% done a day than what we should normally be getting done. We’ve got a long way to go.”