CHICAGO (CBS) — Illinois farmers are in a fight with Mother Nature, and from the looks of it, they are on the losing end.
A gentle wind might be sweeping down the plains on Illinois farms, but in May idle equipment and vacant fields aren’t how it should be.
“It’s just kind of quiet right now,” said Dave Kestel, who grows soybeans, corn, hay, wheat, and pumpkins at Kestel Farms in Will County. “You feel like a caged bull. You want to go, but you can’t.”
An extremely wet spring continues to saturate farms, turning corn and soy fields into acres of thick unplantable mud.
“They’re wet, way wet,” Kestel said.
The last three years at Kestel Farms, all 160 acres were planted by late April, but not this year.
He said, normally the corn would already be a few inches high in mid-May, but instead his fields are still partly covered in water.
“It’s not good. It’s not even drying on top yet,” he said.
With the ground so wet, Kestel said his heavy farm vehicles could get stuck in the mud. He said his tractor would leave ruts more than a foot deep if it didn’t get stuck.
Kestel is not alone. Mid-May figures showed only 10% of corn was planted. That number is typically 66% by now.
Only 3% of the soy crop has been planted. Normally it’s 16% by now.
This is more than just a muddy mess for Illinois farmers. It’s already past the point in the calendar when seed needs to be in the ground, and that means a loss of yields and income.
Kestel said he could be losing two bushels per acre if he’s not planted by week’s end. That’s roughly $1,300 every 24 hours.
“It’s frustrating, because I know I have this many acres to cover, and now the clock is ticking,” he said.
Like any good farmer, Kestel has been keeping an eye on the weather.
“You’re thinking, alright, good, we’ll just miss that next storm, and we’re going to be okay. It will dry up, we’ll be okay, and then wham,” he said.
More than a century after his grandfather bought the land and farmed it with horses, Kestel has learned patience, and sits and waits for the work ahead.
“That day is coming. Those days are coming for sure, I hope,” he said.
That’s the kind of seed that can be planted regardless of the weather.