Memorial Day weekend is looking rainy for large portions of the Corn Belt, and that’s expected to slow down planting progress even more than the wet spring weather has already. According to the latest USDA crop reports, we’re having the slowing corn planting season on record. Is a break in the rainy weather ahead? Should we anticipate a rise in prevent plant acres? Will many corn growers switch to soybeans?
According to Morning Ag Clips, an extremely wet spring hasn’t been conducive to corn planting. As we head into the holiday weekend, strong storms and rain are expected both Friday and Saturday all the way from Texas to Northern Illinois. On Saturday the rain will extend further east into Pennsylvania. On Sunday, much of the Midwest can expect rain. Memorial Day will likely bring light showers to the Central and Upper Plains.
Due to heavier rains than typical this spring, flooding continues to be a problem across much of the Corn Belt. Gauges along the Mississippi, Missouri and other rivers are near or above flood stage. This has made planting impossible in certain areas.
Is the wet weather expected to lift anytime soon? Looking into June, the Midwest and Central/Northern Plains should expect a wetter than normal trend, though Iowa and Nebraska may see somewhat drier conditions.
Slowest Corn Planting Season on Record
Mike McGinnis of Successful Farming says that due to these wetter than normal conditions, less than half of the US corn is in the ground. According to the USDA numbers released earlier this week, corn is significantly behind normal.
US corn planting is 49% complete, which is behind the five year average of 80%. It’s the slowest corn planting season on record.
As of Sunday, Iowa farmers had 70% of that state’s corn crop planted vs. a 89% five-year average. Illinois farmers have 24% of their corn seeded, behind a 89% five-year average. Indiana has 14% planted vs. a 73% five-year average. In the western Corn Belt, Nebraska farmers have 70% of their corn planted vs. a 86% five-year average.
Only 19% of the US corn already planted has emerged. Usually that’s around 50% by now. You can access the latest USDA Crop Progress Report here.
Michael Hirtzer and Dominic Carey of Bloomberg News also report that corn planting has never been this late, and some farmers are now facing deadlines to get their crops in the ground in order to qualify for federally backed insurance policies.
Depending on where they’re located, corn growers won’t be eligible if they don’t plant their corn before cutoff dates. The insurance would protect them in cases of low crop prices or weather events. With the ongoing trade war with China and general market uncertainty, insurance is something that’s extremely important for corn growers right now.
Ryan Jenkins of Illinois’ WQAD says the USDA reports are putting most farmers one to two weeks behind schedule. Illinois seems to be experiencing the worst of it. Farmer Julie Derrer of Milan Illinois said planting just hasn’t been possible.
“It’s mud. You can`t get anything in there,” said Derrer. “You could get the tractor stuck, you can`t make sure the seeds are going to stay in the ground.”
She’s not optimistic about the prospects for getting her corn in.
“The forecast is two more weeks of rain,” said Derrer. “And, our deadline for prevented crop insurance is June 2nd for corn. And its not looking like we are going to get it in so its scary. Its very scary.”
Prevented Crop Acres
Many farmers are beginning to look into their options. Prevented crop insurance can help cover the cost of crops that are unable to be planted. Derrer is disappointed, but may soon have to make that choice.
“Is it enough? We will make it work. We don`t have any other options. But, Its not the same as being able to sell a cash crop,” said Derrer.
No Chance for Trendline Corn Yields this Year
“As we’ve learned in previous years, it’s not all about how we plant the crop. It’s how the crop moves through the growing season and arrives at harvest,” he said. “The next thing to really watch is what kind of summer weather do we get if we maintain kind of a milder, cooler forecast, which is pretty typical of an El Nino year, which they’re telling us we’re supposed to get, then it may not be as big of a deal.”
“The final days of May and the early days of June are when farmers make that decision on whether to plant [corn], switch to soybeans or collect on prevent plant insurance benefits,” Suderman said. “Their default is to plant if the weather provides the opportunity. I’ve never seen a year like this in my six decades of being around agriculture. If the forecast verifies, this year could prove historic.”