Raining and pouring: Midwest farmers fret about wet spring

The corn on Matt Boucher’s farm by this time of year has typically sprouted – and is ready to be fertilized for summer.

“Sometimes, it even comes up to your knees by now,” Boucher told FOX Business.

But on this rare, sunny day in northern Illinois, Boucher is driving across a barren field of dirt, putting seeds in the ground for only the third day this spring.

“It’s just been too wet,” Boucher said. “The rains keep coming, and the fields have been muddy. You can’t plant in mud.”

The rain has plagued much Midwest this year – the wettest season ever in the contiguous U.S. – putting agricultural planting weeks behind schedule.

Over the past five years, at this point in the season, the grain states have generally completed about 96 percent of corn planting, according to the USDA. But in 2019, Illinois farms stand at just 45 percent complete. Ohio and Indiana are even worse – at 33 and 31 percent complete, respectively.

And amid the Trump administration’s tariff fight with China, which has sent soybean prices tumbling, American farmers are now also worried about how much corn they’ll actually grow this year.

If a crop doesn’t receive enough warm summer days to mature and develop, it will yield fewer bushels. As a consequence, corn futures in May reached a three-year high.

“Normally, by this time of the year, we’re completed and moving on to other things by now,” Boucher said. “This year’s been tough.”

Earlier this week, Boucher had only planted about 80 of his 1,000 acres.

He and other farmers are now deciding which fields to plant – and which to forgo for the season.

Autumn frosts could destroy a crop that isn’t ready in time.

“We’ve never seen anything like this,” Jim McCormick, a commodity broker for Agmarket.net, told FOX Business. “For some north of Chicago, it’s almost too late for them.”

In Illinois, the USDA says only about one-third of the corn crop is sprouting – or “emerging” – at this point, versus an average of 91 percent.


Nationally, about 67 percent of corn has been planted, compared to 96 percent last year.

The USDA will give an update on the state of the nation’s crops on June 10.