Most of the corn in the Peoria area was planted the last half of April. Ideal planting conditions prevailed to get the corn off to an excellent start. Soil moisture was plentiful, and occasional showers came to assure germination and good stands. The farmers' ability to get the corn crop planted in a timely fashion gives them an opportunity to harvest good yields this fall if Mother Nature opens up the skies with a few drinks during the critical summer months.
Soybean planting began in earnest after the first of May, and conditions were once again ideal. Although early bean planting doesn't seem to be as critical as it is for the corn, the bean crop will also be able to take advantage of a longer growing season and potential summer showers.
There was some concern in the farm community when a cool Canadian front dipped down into the Midwest the first weekend in May. Fortunately, the Peoria area escaped frost damage. Corn can withstand a light frost even when it has several leaves. The growing point of a corn plant remains below the soil surface-and basically protected from frost-until it's four to six inches tall. Although the exposed leaves would turn brown, new leaves would soon develop with warmer temperatures. Soybeans, on the other hand, would need to be replanted since even a light frost would do damage beyond recovery.
There's more optimism in the farm community this spring than there's been in several years. Along with crops being planted on time and looking good so far, corn and soybean prices are also at respectable levels. Demand for corn and soybeans has been excellent since last fall. Renewable fuels are requiring more of the crop, and exports have been very good. High demand, combined with a short soybean crop last fall, has provided the ingredients for nervous grain markets heading into the summer. Farmers will be keeping a close eye on their crops and the markets as we head into the critical July-August time period.
Higher corn and soybean prices have also been a positive for the government coffers. When the 2002 Farm Bill was enacted, minimum support levels were established for corn and soybeans. These support levels are around $2 for corn and $5 for soybeans. If the prices fall below these minimum levels, the government basically pays the difference through loan deficiency payments (LDPs). As prices began to increase last August, LDPs were erased later in the harvest season.
Since the price for commodities has been higher, the government has saved millions of dollars, and farmers are receiving income from the marketplace, which is where they prefer to receive revenue. The sincere efforts of farmers working with legislators, and legislators providing opportunities to market grains, have created this win-win situation.
Let's hope agriculture can stay on a positive path, which will benefit our entire economy. IBI