A smartphone could fit in the space between James McCune’s index finger and thumb as the Illinois farmer describes the height of crops stunted by incessant rain and unseasonably cool weather.
“Corn’s not supposed to be this tall” in mid-June, McCune, who can trace his family’s farm roots as far back as 1857, said. “It’s supposed to be this tall,” as he gestures just below his waist.
Conditions and morale are so low in McCune’s area of northwestern Illinois, typically the second-biggest corn-producing state, that he organized a get-together Thursday evening at The Happy Spot, a restaurant and bar in Deer Grove, Whiteside County. About 125 farmers and others tied to the industry turned out for chicken and beer at the event, dubbed “prevent plant party,” in reference to acreage left unplanted this season.
“It’s going to be a train wreck,” McCune said.
The headwinds growers are facing are multiple. Record rain has flooded Midwest streets and snarled Mississippi River traffic, crucial to delivering inputs that farmers need and a major artery in helping them ship products. Stalled corn plantings forced the U.S. Department of Agriculture to cut its harvest estimates in its June report, only the fourth time since 2000 that the government has taken such action in that month’s data.