CHICAGO (CBS) — Following an extremely wet spring, farmers in Illinois face a tall task to get their crops planted and growing. Barely half of the state’s planted corn and only a quarter of soybeans having emerged so far — figures that are typically 80 to 90% by now.
“We have a fairly small window in the spring, like a month, to get things planted, and we’ve lost that month,” said Dave Kestel, owner of Kestel Farms in Will County.
The wet weather wreaked havoc on planting in May, and the situation has gone from bad to worse.
“We’re trying to work with Mother Nature. She’s just not cooperating very much right now. We get close, and then wham we get another rain,” Kestel said.
The weather was so wet in May, many farm fields still have standing water, or the soil is simply too wet to plant. Normally, Kestel’s seed shed would be virtually empty by this time of year, but with so little planting done since the end of April, it’s still piled high with seed.
“The planting conditions are bleak at best. We’re just way behind,” Kestel said. “Last year at this time, I was 100% planted with corn and soybeans.”
As of last week, he was only about 55% planted with corn, virtually none of it in ideal conditions.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s weekly crop progress report, Illinois farmers have only been able to plant seed in 73% of the acreage dedicated to corn as of June 9, compared to the average of 100% for the same time frame over the previous five years.
Of what has been planted, only 51% of the seeds have emerged, compared to the five-year average of 96%.
For soybeans, the situation is even more bleak; only 49% of the state’s soybean acreage has been planted, compared to the five-year average of 91%; and only 25% of what was planted has emerged, compared to the five-year average of 79%.
Kestel said there’s a lot of ground at his farm that simply won’t get planted at this point, because he won’t have time.
“Right now, this is not too spectacular. So it’s kind of a kick in the head,” he said. “The ground’s pretty chilly yet, and it’s got to be warm for that kernel to germinate.”
To get his fields planted, Kestel and his workers will have to put in a lot of overtime this week. After this week, Kestel said it will be too late to plant any corn.
“We’re going to put in some awfully long hours, be drinking a lot of coffee, be out there all day, all night to try to get these fields covered, because we are running out of time,” he said.
Kestel also predicted ribeye steaks that now cost $9 or $10 per pound could go up to $15 per pound if farmers run out of field corn grown to feed livestock.