'We're going to do OK': Collar-county crops rebound from late start as harvest gets into gear
Despite a rough start with weather and higher prices for fertilizer and other supplies, farmers appear to be doing OK this season as a late harvest gets into full swing.
One of the familiar sights of fall in the collar counties is about two weeks behind schedule this year as farmers are just beginning to harvest corn.
Warnings to drivers about big, slow-moving farm machinery on local roads are being sounded as the pace picks up and continues for about the next three weeks.
The year had an ominous beginning with cold and wet days delaying planting and a jump in fertilizer, fuel and other costs, but 2022 is working out pretty well in a profession where every year is a challenge for different reasons, farmers say.
"Illinois has been a garden spot for the Corn Belt," said DeAnne Bloomberg, issue management director for the Illinois Farm Bureau. "Barring any major windstorm from now until November, we're pleasantly surprised."
Drought to the west and increased demand due to the Russia-Ukraine war are among the factors that have buoyed commodity prices. The full picture is emerging, but it's likely that will be more than enough to offset increased operating and materials cost, observers say.
"Across the board, commodity prices have stayed pretty high and demand is still good," said Jim Raftis, agriculture marketing reporter for the Illinois Department of Agriculture.
Harvest is a little behind schedule, but farms are pleased where they stand, he said.
"I'm not complaining -- we're going to do OK," said Chris Gould, a farmer based near Maple Park in Kane County who plants thousands of acres of corn and soybeans. "Commodity prices can overcome increased costs."
Bad weather delayed planting by nearly a month, Gould said. But optimum conditions with warm days and regular precipitation that followed are boosting crops for farmers and backyard gardeners alike.
Gould is finished harvesting soybeans and just started on his corn crop. So far, so good, he said.
"Once we got the seeds in the ground, we had a very good growing season," he said. "Corn is thus far phenomenal."
In Lake County, soybean yields are expected to be average with corn slightly above average, according to Greg Koeppen, executive director of the Lake County Farm Bureau.
"What started as a wet and late planting season turned into one of the best growing and harvest seasons we have seen in many years," he said. Harvest weather also is ideal, he said.
"The fields are dry, the sun is shining and we are getting the cooler nights. We couldn't ask for anything better this time of year," Koeppen said.
Commodity prices have increased the past few weeks, which will help offset farmers' increased costs, according to Koeppen.
"Just fertilizer, it's been double or in some cases triple," Bloomberg said. "And we all know how energy prices have come into play on the bottom line."
Gould said landowners also know prices are up and want a piece of the action.
In the Huntley area, farmer and McHenry County Farm Bureau President Dan Ziller said Thursday corn still was too moist to harvest but is hesitant to use dryers fueled by natural gas.
"We want to leave it in the field and let Mother Nature do the job," he said.
Considering the circumstances this season, Ziller thought everybody would be happy with the yields.
"It's going to be a good yield, but I don't think we'll break any records here in southeast McHenry County," he said. "I think everybody is going to do OK, but it isn't going to be a banner year."
While this season will be decent, 2023 is a question mark. Will fertilizer cost more now or will the price drop? Will crop prices offset increases next year as well?
"It's challenging, keeping track of all that and making good decisions," Gould said.
Meanwhile, the harvest delay shouldn't be an issue.
"It's only catastrophic when the first blizzard hits and you still have corn standing," he said.