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Farming outlook: As corn grows, demand shrinks

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Springfield, IL - COVID-19 put many industries on hold, but farmers had to continue working throughout the pandemic. Thankfully, the weather has generally helped farmers with their crops this year.

The corn and soybean crops look good across most of Illinois, but the pandemic has created unique financial burdens for producers. Farmers are constantly adapting to changes in their fields. Though many families have dealt with pandemics in the past, Cathryn Seifert says it's been hard to rebound from 2019. Many farmers were planting feverishly once they saw favorable ground conditions this spring.

"We planted as much as we could. I wish it would have warmed up a little bit earlier," Seifert said. "But with the warm temperatures now, we've really seen the crops take off, especially the corn."

Impacting the farm economy

Corn grew quickly, as the saying goes, "knee high by the Fourth of July." In fact, Seifert says her crops were nearly head high at five or six feet tall. The Seifert family grows food grade white corn commonly used for cornmeal and tortillas. Still, demand was severely changed by COVID-19.

"We need to regain our export demand, our ethanol demand and the livestock demand, even on the feed side," Seifert added.

The biggest worry for farmers is the amount of crops remaining in the bin at the end of the marketing year.

"It still looks like we'll have something around 2.6 billion bushels left for corn. That's way better than the above 3 billion that we thought about," said farm broadcaster Todd Gleason. "At the end of the month of June, things have gotten a little better, but they're still not looking good."

The University of Illinois Extension broadcaster says the last bushel makes a big difference for profits. "The more that's left around, the less expensive that crop is, meaning the less payment the producer ends up getting for the crop."

Farmers are also curious to see how the new United States-Mexico-Canada agreement will help impact imports and exports of crops.

"I'm hopeful that all of the countries can keep up their end of the deal with the USMCA. Maybe it can provide some sort of stability in a time of instability for all three countries," Seifert said.

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Mike Miletich

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