County farmers seeing productive planting season with weather

Farmers in Ogle County have spent recent weeks on spring planting amid ideal weather and are on track to have their crops in the ground by the end of May, Ogle County Farm Bureau Manager Ron Kern said May 23.

‘Over the last 3-4 weeks, planting weather has been excellent’

OGLE COUNTY — Farmers in Ogle County have spent recent weeks on spring planting amid ideal weather and are on track to have their crops in the ground by the end of May, Ogle County Farm Bureau Manager Ron Kern said May 23. 

“It's actually been a pretty good spring,” Kern said. “I know of some farmers that are done with planting and some with some acres to go. I'd say conservatively the county is 80-90 percent planted, maybe closer to 90 percent. We started off slow with some cool and wet weather, but over the last 3-4 weeks, planting weather has been excellent. Most farmers usually try to wrap up planting by the end of May for beans and corn. I'd say we'll make it there with the dry weather. We're right on course for where we ought to be."

The area saw cool and wet weather towards the end of March and beginning of April, which Kern said made up for a lack of snow and up-and-down temperatures over the winter, which made soil moisture levels lower. Kern called the winter normal, outside of lower snowfall levels. 

Recent dry weather and advantageous spotty rains have made spring planting ideal, Kern said.

“That's great for crop germination and getting crops to come up and the germination has looked fantastic so far,” Kern said. “But we are dry right now and it looks like we're going to be dry for a while. We're at a point as usual where we'd welcome a good inch of rain. It's the same old story. Even years when it's wet, somewhere along the way you end up praying for rain. That's the nature of the beast.”

Ogle County farmers also saw severe weather this spring with windstorms and rainfall. The area didn’t have any crops up to be knocked down by wind, but farmers did have to deal with picking up debris blown about by wind before farm work could happen.

Outside of the area, a May 1 dust storm took place in Southern Illinois that caused blackout conditions on Interstate 55. Wind gusts blew dirt from nearby farm fields across the road and reduced visibility, causing many crashes. Multiple fatalities took place and dozens of people were transported to hospitals with injuries from the incident that saw over 70 vehicles involved in accidents. 

Kern said the dust storm incident saw “perfect conditions” for it to happen, with a recently-worked field and extremely dry and windy conditions. The incident brought the issue of soil health and till work techniques to the forefront. 

“I don't know what the farmer or anyone else around there could have done differently,” Kern said. “There's all kinds of different techniques to farming as far as minimum till, conventional till and no till. But it's all about the weather. We've had some severe weather earlier this spring in the state. Living in the tornado belt, that's to be expected. It was an unfortunate incident. It was an incident of weather. There is new legislation being talked about to help farmers with improving soil health, and we would love to see that. Helping to provide education and financial incentives for farmers to do some different things in order to help improve soil health, and I know farmers want to do that.”

On broader farming notes, Kern said that preliminary discussions are starting on a new federal farm bill and area farmers are tracking that and what the end product will look like. After recent years of inflation, supply chain issues, higher input prices and market volatility, he said prices are always on local farmers’ minds as they work towards harvest. 

Earlier this month, the United States Supreme Court upheld a new California law relating to how pork must be produced to be sold in that state, which consumes about 13 percent of bacon in the country, Kern said. 

Most pork producers don’t produce pork in the way the law states, and an Illinois pork producer that is taking pork to a processing plant that will be selling it in California would be affected. 

“I'm not really sure how that is going to shake out as far as the farmers that produce pork and what kind of economic ramifications it's going to have on them,” Kern said. “They no longer can sell it in California because it wasn't produced by the California standard. Most pork producers do not have the financial resources to try to change their entire operation just to try to grow hogs to the California standard.”