Mt. Vernon Register-News

State News

December 4, 2009

Winter’s here, yet Illinois corn harvest drags on

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) — Ken Beck isn’t much of a golf fan, but the 48-year-old corn farmer was a little relieved to have Tiger Woods’ troubles to discuss.

Anything new to talk about is good, Beck figured. Farmers waiting in long lines to unload corn are out of conversation topics as harvest season in the country’s No. 2 corn-producing state drags on for weeks longer than usual.

“You go to the elevator and, we’re just all tired of seeing each other,” Beck, who farms near Mendota, about 100 miles west of Chicago, said Thursday. “We’re running out of things to talk about.”

The country’s long, slow corn harvest season — expected to be the second largest U.S. crop ever — is finally winding down in most states. But not Illinois.

While farmers in Iowa, the country’s top corn producer, are steering combines toward the final 10 percent of that state’s crop, more than a quarter of Illinois’ corn hasn’t been harvested, according to the Department of Agriculture.

Among the other top 10 corn states, only South Dakota, with about 60 percent of its crop harvested, is further behind.

Across much of the Corn Belt, a wet spring kept farmers from planting on time or in some cases forced them to replant washed-out crops. The season was followed by a cool, damp summer that slowed crop development. A rainy fall kept farmers out of their fields and prevented corn from quickly drying out.

Corn must be dry before it is used for animal feed, corn syrup or other products. Elevators penalize farmers if they bring in corn with high moisture content.

On average, U.S. farmers harvested all but 3 percent of their crop by the end of November in 2004 through 2008, and all but 1 percent in Illinois, according to the USDA.

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