JA corn planting2

Corn is shown Thursday, July 4, 2019, in a field at Rising Road near U.S. 150 in Champaign.

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ALLERTON — This year, Illinois farmers are expected to have their worst corn crop since 1998, with production down 17 percent from last year, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

But the report predicts only a 4 percent drop nationwide, much better than what analysts had expected, which has led to a steep drop in corn prices.

“The corn market is down 50 cents in the last two or three days. … Most market observers were expecting a lower acreage number than what the USDA came out with,” said Gary Luth, who farms near Allerton. “It’s been an extremely rough time period for those of us who have product to sell and don’t necessarily have it sold.”

As for his crop, he said it’s “a little early to tell,” but he expects yields to be below average.

“It appears as though we were fortunate in getting our corn crop in the ground at a relatively normal time frame. It looks like the pollination occurred successfully,” he said. “It’s up to rainfall from here forward for how the crop turns out. It still could be substantially below average or average.”

As for soybeans, he said the outlook isn’t as positive.

“I’m looking at probably 10 to 20 percent below-average yields on the soybeans now,” Luth said. “It could get worse if we don’t get rain right away. It’s the typical farmer story: If it rains, we’ll be OK; if not, who knows?”

Dirk Rice also said he’s concerned about the lack of rain.

“It’s gotten dry,” he said. “As I go from Philo to Urbana, and I can see we’ve caught a little more rain in Philo just looking at the height of the beans. They’re short around my house, and by Urbana, they’re very short.”

He said his corn is “still looking decent, but we need rain to finish it off to protect yield there.”

Steve Hettinger, who farms over a 50-mile stretch, said his fields vary quite a bit.

“On the east side in the Broadlands area, we’re looking pretty good — average to above average. As it goes west, it drops off,” Hettinger said. There was “only a half inch of rain in July.”

Overall, for corn, “I’m going to say we’re 15 to 20 percent off an average year,” Hettinger said.

Pollination has been sporadic on his corn, he said, but there’s “no disasters that I can see. No 2012 drought material. But it definitely leads you to believe that the government might be a little bit optimistic about some of their numbers.”

As for his soybeans, he said “they’re definitely going to be off.”

“They’re late. They’re short,” he said. “There was late planting, and when we planted, it wasn’t ideal.”

Hettinger said the fields were muddy when planted, but then the rain stopped and the ground became hard, making it difficult for the roots to penetrate into the soil.

Even if this year’s crop is below average, Hettinger said he’ll look forward to next year’s.

“I’m a Cubs fan, so ‘wait till next year’ rings loudly in my head,” he said.

Reporter

Ben Zigterman is a reporter covering business at The News-Gazette. His email is bzigterman@news-gazette.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@bzigterman).