Corn farmers in Midwest lament flooding's effect on their crops

The old adage for corn farmers across the Midwest is: “Knee-high by the Fourth of July.”

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Farmers once gauged the mid-season success – or failure – of their crop by whether it could reach their knees by Independence Day.

With better seed technology, most farmers now look for corn to go shoulder-high by this time of year, or even to reach “as high as an elephant’s eye,” as lyricized in the musical “Oklahoma.”

But the spring’s wet weather, some of the rainiest on record, has stunted much of the crop, and farmers are lamenting it on Twitter.

“Oh, what a difference year makes,” Greg Peterson, a farm equipment dealer from Rochester, Minn., wrote in a tweet.

Peterson posted some photos of farming friends Amy and Jason Hoying, who live in Ohio. In 2018, the crop at the beginning of July was at least two feet above their heads. This year, they stand at in a row of green sprouts barely at their shins.

Similarly, the Farm Bureau in Dekalb County, Ill., about an hour west of Chicago, features a pair of photos of member Scott Willret.

The left-side image features Willret standing among shoulder-high corn in a “typical year.”  The right shows an ankle-high crop in 2019.

“Not Knee-High,” blares the top of the post.

Another tweet from Indiana-based seed company provides another look at the then-and-now perspective.

The look back at 2018 shows corn at “Sturgeon Family Farms”, which is already more than seven-feet tall -- while the more recent image, taken on June 29, has corn that an adult can easily step over.

“The only time corn was worse than now, really, was the drought of 2012,” said Jim McCormick, a commodity broker for  “With such a late planting season, we are in a race to reach maturity.  That is the biggest problem.”

The USDA’s latest weekly crop progress report says 56 percent of corn in the U.S. is in either “good” or “excellent” condition. A year ago, 76 percent of corn fit those labels.

“Without perfect conditions going forward, farmers could face quality issues this fall, plain and simple,” McCormick said.

Meanwhile, a farmer tried to add some humor to the situation facing many farmers by celebrating corn that is indeed “knee high!!!”

The catch: It is knee-high for a 12-inch Barbie Doll.

“Farm Barbie says even the late planted corn is knee high !!!,” proclaims the post.