Decent weather means reasonably good yields for Illinois farmers


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The Center Square

(The Center Square) – Heavy rainfall in Illinois in 2019 resulted in low crop yields for Illinois farmers last year, but good weather in Illinois this spring has turned that around, but the pandemic could pose additional challenges.

“We are looking at a real good crop for the most part,” said Mike Doherty, an economist with the Illinois Farm Bureau. 

The bad news is that COVID-19 has caused corn prices to tank. The COVID-19 shutdown this spring has meant drastic cuts in driving when Illinois farmers have a surplus of corn in storage. One-third of Illinois’ corn crop goes to ethanol, so corn prices “sunk,” Doherty said. 

At harvest, Illinois corn farms may wind up with less than $3 a bushel. 

COVID-19 has also impacted Illinois livestock, driving down prices for pork, beef and dairy. Pork processing is now back to 90% capacity, Doherty said. In the face of a worldwide recession because of COVID-19, demand for meat is certain to drop, he said. 

This summer, Doherty said Illinois farmers are waiting for three things: 

  1. Government aid to farmers has been generous so far, but not enough to make farmers whole in the face of the China trade war last year. Farmers want to know how much they will receive in government aid in the next COVID relief package from Congress.
  1.  In February, President Trump signed Phase One of the new trade deal with China. This summer, China stepped up and made two large purchases. Illinois farmers are waiting to see if China comes through with the major purchases that farmers are hoping for at harvest time.
  2. Every August, Illinois soybean farmers wait in anticipation of the “million dollar rain” that they need in August for a high-yield soybean harvest. 

The backdrop to the Illinois farmer’s situation is the worldwide global recession due to COVID-19. The recession is expected to reduce worldwide demand for Illinois crops and livestock through 2021. With all the challenges ahead and storm clouds on the horizon, Illinois farmers need the rental prices for their crop land to be in line with world market conditions. 

People do not realize that a typical corn and soybean farmer in Illinois rents 80% of the land where they grow crops, Doherty said.

“The next stage for farmers is to renegotiate their lease agreements,” Doherty said. “What is a reasonable level to pay to lease cropland in the face of a forecast of low farm income in 2020 and 2021?”


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