QUINCY -- It's decision time for farmers on whether or not to plant a corn crop this year, with the same choice looming soon for soybeans.
Final planting dates under crop insurance are June 5 for corn and June 15 for soybeans, with taking a prevented planting payment the only option for some farmers battling wet fields and ongoing flooding concerns.
"For some it's much easier than it is for others. If they're in the river bottoms, have floodwater or have an excessive amount of seepage and a high probability a crop won't be planted for a number of weeks, the decision to take prevented planting is a pretty easy one," Adams County Farm Bureau President Rick Edwards said.
"As far as most farmers who aren't farming in the bottoms, it's become a little bit more complicated because of market facilitation payments that we could possibly be getting," he said. "We've been told they will be on a per acre basis of what's been planted, so those acres of prevented planting will not be eligible. That's the way it's set today, but it could change tomorrow."
Farmers have 72 hours after the final planting date to decide on prevented planting coverage, but complicating the decision even more is the possibility of a federal disaster bill that could boost prevented planting payments.
Like many area farmers, Edwards has acreage underwater due to flooding, and "as slow as it's going to go down and as long as it will take it dry out once the river's off it," planting all of it, or potentially any of it, is doubtful.
"There is no good choice," said Brock Willard, an insurance office with Compeer in Quincy who farms in Pike County. "If it was an easy choice, we wouldn't be having the conversations we've been having with our producers the last two or three weeks."
The best option for farmers would have been planting corn in April and May, but wet weather forced them to look at planting late -- and planting corn after Wednesday reduces the guaranteed crop insurance payment by 1 percent a day up to June 25, the last insurable day -- or not at all.
A prevented planting payment covers land cost and some initial fertilizer costs but typically not much more. With planted acres, the producer can sell the crop and take advantage of market facilitation payments to help farmers hurt by trade disruptions tied to tariffs.
Willard said producers need to consider costs already put into the ground -- including cash rent or mortgage payments and fertilizer costs -- in making the decision.
"I looked at what my land cost is, and in my case, I already had all my fertilizer on, so it made sense to try to plant," he said.
But planting corn late brings other potential challenges, including hotter conditions at pollination which could jeopardize yield.
"It's a combination of a lot of negative things that could be happening when you're talking planting corn late," Willard said. "The price improved some, but it's below some folks' breakeven, and come fall, you're talking about paying a large drying bill on what is harvested potentially."
Farmers have more flexibility with soybeans.
"If we get August rains, late beans can yield very, very well," Edwards said.
"We went from one extreme to the other. Last year we had excellent stands of corn and soybeans. This year I haven't been in a corn field yet that had a perfect stand," Edwards said. "A number of fields need to be replanted, but it's still too wet to get in."
After the final planting date -- June 5 for corn and June 15 for soybean -- producers generally have four options:
º Take a preventing planting payment (at 55 to 60% of the guarantee) and not plant a crop to be harvested or grazed prior to Nov. 1.
º Plant corn (no prevented planting payment) which can be insured with decreasing returns throughout the late planting period.
º Plant another harvestable crop but no prevented planting payment is received.
º Take 35 percent of the con prevented planting payment and plant another crop for harvest after the late planting period for corn on June 26.
Source: University of Illinois Extension