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Midwest Flooding Harms Farmer's Yields

Jun 9, 2019
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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

And now to the Midwest, where heavy rainfall has made growing conditions tough for farmers. One crop in particular - corn - has been hit hard. According to the Department of Agriculture, this is the slowest start to the corn-planting season on record. To hear more about this, we've called Matt Boucher. He's a fourth generation farmer from Dwight, Ill., where he grows corn as well as soybeans, wheat and cover crops. And in fact, we caught him out in the field, where he's trying to plant. Matt, welcome. Thanks so much for joining us.

MATT BOUCHER: Thanks for having us. Appreciate it.

MARTIN: Well, walk me through the season. What would normally have happened by now, and what has actually happened now?

BOUCHER: Well, we're normally completed now. We're moving on to fertilizing corn and maintaining the weed pressures, you know, keeping the weeds out of the field. But right now it's just not the case. We're still planting and trying to get things in and might have some acres we're just not going to be able to get in, no matter what we do.

MARTIN: And why is that? It's just that the ground's been too wet or what? Why is that?

BOUCHER: Yes. The ground has been too wet. Every time we turn around, it seems like we keep getting a rain shower that we don't need. But normally in the planting season, we have a four, five or six-day window of dry weather where we can go out and plant. And then it might rain. And then we'll have another four or five, six-day window. This year, we've only been able to plant on five different days now total.

MARTIN: So how much of your normal crop have you been able to get into the ground?

BOUCHER: We're small compared to some of the other growers throughout the state here in Illinois. But we normally have everything in the ground. As of Monday, we only had about 25% or so in the ground tops, actually a little bit less than that.

MARTIN: So what are you going to do? As you said, like, normally, you've had your corn in. And then I guess you'd move onto your beans. What are you going to do?

BOUCHER: Right now we have a few different options. We do carry crop insurance, as does many of the farmers throughout the state and throughout the Midwest, for that matter. And we do have an option to take what they call prevent plants. That's part of our crop insurance.

MARTIN: What happens if you and all of your neighbors don't get your corn into the field? Like I say, as you've told me now, you've got like only about a fraction in the ground if what you normally would have at this time of year. Are we going to - forgive me for being selfish about it - are we not going to have corn this summer to go with our barbecues and everything else or what? What's going to happen?

BOUCHER: The corn the majority of the Midwest grows goes toward feeding pigs, feeding cows, feeding a lot of different livestock, also goes toward corn oil and ethanol and various products that are on our store shelves. Long story short, we're looking at lower supply, which should increase the price if the demand stays the same.

MARTIN: But before we let you go, I mentioned that you're a fourth-generation farmer. And I presume that you've talked to your parents about the rain situation, the heavy rains. Have they ever seen anything like this before?

BOUCHER: No. This is relatively unprecedented. I was talking to a neighbor here the other day about the drought in 2012. And, you know, we had a really short crop in 2012 because it got so hot and so dry. The corn crop didn't amount to anything, but at least we were able to get it in the ground. When you go out into a situation like this where we can't get the seed into the ground, it's worse than a drought for the fact that, you know, you don't even have a chance.

MARTIN: Well, that's Matt Boucher. He is a farmer in Dwight, Ill. We actually reached him out in the field, and he was nice enough to take a little bit of time out to talk with us. Good luck, Mr. Boucher. We will keep a good thought for you and your neighbors. Thank you so much.

BOUCHER: Thank you much, appreciate it. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.