High yields, flat prices for local corn harvest

A new John Deere S780 combine sends a torrent of shelled corn into a wagon on Don Schrader’s field along JJ Road south of Waterloo last week. (Alan Dooley photo)

From the seats of near-half-million dollar combines, this year’s corn crop in Monroe County looks extremely good.

Once it arrives on the market, however, there’s a different story.

Yields are up to near record levels, but the prices per bushel are flat. That, in turn, makes it difficult for farmers to get through this year and into the next.

Perhaps the best news farmers have had this year has been relatively stable fuel prices.  

The good weather farmers enjoyed much of this summer has shifted in recent days, including a recent deluge of rainfall. While this area has enjoyed relatively good weather since, intermittent precipitation has paused harvesting and some corn is threatening to lay down in fields before it can be harvested.

Prices delivered to buyers are similar to those last year –currently in the $3.15 to $3.25 per bushel range. Last year’s Illinois state record 201-per-acre yield is being exceeded with numbers in the range of 215 bushels per acre this year.  

So, more corn and a similar price should provide a slightly higher return to farmers this year.

At the same time, Gateway FS Grain Manager Adam Parker said, this introduces a new problem: storing the crop until farmers are ready to take it to market – hopefully at a higher price later in the fall or early winter.  

“Storage capacity is at a premium,” Parker said. “I am getting calls every day from farmers saying they anticipate more bushels at harvest than they can hold.”

At least barge shipping capacity isn’t being hampered by excessively high or low water on the Mississippi River, meaning crops can be moved efficiently to New Orleans for export markets.

Parker noted too that this area certainly doesn’t need any more rain until farmers can get their arms around crops in the field and store or sell them.  

“Some corn ears have sat in water and kernels are starting to sprout a little,” he said.  

The majority of the corn in the bottom areas adjacent to the Mississippi River has already been harvested. Between the low-lying areas and up onto the bluffs and then inland about 50 percent of area corn has been harvested with more coming in daily – and nightly.

Farming is not a 9-to-5 job.

The next of the big three Monroe County field crops to come will be soybeans.  In addition to the usual farm risks of weather and the variables of growing live products, there is the uncertain shadow of tariffs, especially involving Chinese markets.  

Obviously at some point, feeding a billion-plus people will start to press China and even now, that country is hedging bets by buying beans being shipped from the U.S. to South America and then re-shipped to China at a considerable expense.

Local motorists are urged to be watchful and courteous to drivers moving farm machinery and trucks of harvest on county highways. While slow-downs can be an inconvenience, these working men and women are generating a substantial amount of the wealth we all share in the end.  

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