Wet, cold weather hindering planting season for area farmers

Ogle County Farm Bureau Manager Ron Kern said last week that wet and cold conditions have hindered the spring work of area farmers.

Supply chain issues, fuel prices impacting Ogle County farmers

OGLE COUNTY — Ogle County Farm Bureau Manager Ron Kern said last week that wet and cold conditions have hindered the spring work of area farmers. 

Kern is unsure whether farmers in the county have finished applying anhydrous ammonia to fields and said there’s likely still field work to do that’s left over from last fall. He knew of a few planters running, but “not many.”

“Everyone is dealing with wet and cold conditions,” Kern said. “Neither are conducive to planting. We need the fields to dry out and the weather to warm up. It looks like maybe next week temperatures will jump into the 60s and stay there. Up until now with soil temperatures, it was risky business to plant into cold soil. We’re going to have to get some dryer weather. When you can only get into the fields two days a week due to weather it makes for a long planting season.”

In usual years, corn starts to get planted by May and bean planting is wrapped up by June, Kern said. The farm bureau manager said he’s read stories about farmers in central Illinois that are just getting started on planting now when they’re usually finished by this time. The whole state is behind on spring work due to weather conditions. 

Despite a dry year in 2021 for farmers, Kern said that crop yield turned out “pretty well.” Price increases on commodities in the past 5-6 months have helped as well after those numbers had been an issue for the past 3-5 years, Kern said. 

“I don’t know that any farmer doesn’t always think the next year will be a better year,” Kern said. “It’s what you have to think. Unbridled optimism.”

On top of weather issues, Kern described supply chain-caused hurdles that farmers have been dealing with since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Input prices for farmers have gone “sky high.”

“They’ve shot up like a rocket,” Kern said. “Since last year, anhydrous ammonia has doubled in price. Urea fertilizer has almost doubled. It’s making people very nervous. When you start looking at planting with inputs like that, you better hope it’s a good crop and there’s no issues getting it into the ground like we’ve seen. I think people are nervous.”

Kern believes “a lot of” those price increases are due to supply chain issues and inputs and tariffs are partially responsible. When foreign imports were cheaper, that caused domestic producers not to invest in production. Now that some foreign supply has been cut off, there’s not enough domestically, Kern said. 

With supply chain impacts, Kern said there were delays in getting seed for the 2022 planting season. However, he said he hasn’t heard of any issues with livestock farmers’ ability to get feed or get livestock transported.

High fuel prices have negatively affected Ogle County farmers as well. A lot of farmers buy their fuel on contract, but when those contracts were renewed this year, prices had already started to get high, Kern said. 

“Guys are sort of getting a double whammy in dealing with fuel prices and other things,” Kern said. 

To combat a multitude of issues today, Kern said it’s his hope that Ogle County farmers have good marketing and management strategies and a good lender that understands the issue so farmers can manage their way through the issues. 

“A lot of it is us maybe coming into a perfect storm of issues,” Kern said. “Inputs are high, fuel prices are high. And input prices aren’t going down. I don’t know if we’ve ever seen supply chain issues like we are today. We’ve never had a pandemic. Everything that’s normal isn’t normal anymore. It’s hard to plan for the abnormal. You can play what if until the cows come home. Things just aren’t as easily managed today.”