By PETER HANCOCK
Capitol News Illinois
SPRINGFIELD – This year’s Illinois corn crop could be as much as 17 percent smaller than last year’s crop, while soybean production could fall as much as 21 percent, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said Monday.
Those numbers were part of a highly-anticipated report in which the USDA revised its most recent crop production estimates in light of this year’s unusually wet planting season that delayed or prevented many farmers from getting crops into the ground, followed by a severe heat wave in July that affected the development of those crops.
As a result, USDA lowered its estimate of total acres planted for both major crops this year, as well as the per-acre yield for each crop.
Nationally, USDA projected that corn production would fall 14 percent this year, while soybean production is expected to drop 19 percent.
As bad as those numbers are, however, Illinois Department of Agriculture Director John Sullivan said they were not as bad as many farmers and traders had expected.
“All in all, I think that most farmers are surprised at what these numbers came out at. They expected them to be much lower,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan said what surprised many people in Illinois is that, despite this year’s weather conditions, USDA did not significantly lower its estimate on corn production, the single largest cash crop in Illinois.
Nationally, according to the report, USDA expects farmers to harvest just more than 82 million acres of corn, up slightly from last year’s 81.7 million acres. It also lowered its yield estimate to 169.5 bushels per-acre, down only slightly from last year’s 176.4 bushels per-acre.
“I think that surprised a lot of people, that that per-acre average across the nation was that high, and I think most farmers out there, they’re not seeing that,” Sullivan said. “Of course, they’re only looking at our small world here in Illinois, and so it’s probably a bit deceiving, but I think there’s some surprise in those numbers.”
For Illinois specifically, however, USDA expects the number of corn acres harvested to fall by only 400,000 acres, to 10.4 million, and the yield to fall less than 14 percent, to 181 bushels per-acre, for total production of just under 1.9 billion bushels, down almost 17 percent from last year’s production of nearly 2.3 billion bushels.
Soybean production is expected to fall to 546.7 million bushels, down from last year’s 698.7 million bushels. That’s based on a projection of 9.9 million acres harvested, at 55 bushels per-acre, down from last year’s 10.7 million acres harvested at 65 bushels per-acre.
Last week, USDA announced it had approved Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s request for a statewide agricultural disaster declaration. That allows farmers and agribusinesses that have experienced weather-related losses to apply for low-interest emergency loans to restore or replace essential property, cover production costs, pay essential living expenses, reorganize the family farming operation or refinance certain non-real estate debts, according to state officials.