By ZETA CROSS
THE CENTER SQUARE CONTRIBUTOR
(The Center Square) – One Illinois farmer is celebrating a record harvest, but inflation is taking a toll.
In Dekalb County, Mark Tuttle, a fifth-generation farmer, said he’s had the best soybean crop he’s ever had in 44 years of farming.
“Good yields, good weather, good quality. One of the best bean yields we’ve had in the Upper Midwest in a long time,” Mr. Tuttle told The Center Square.
Thanks to decent weather, corn yields are up too, Mr. Tuttle said. In the past three years, just before harvest, 100 mph wind storms knocked down a lot of corn. Not this year.
“We’ve just come off two to three years of bad harvest conditions,” Mr. Tuttle said. “Last year there were some fields where we had to leave 30 bushels on the ground.”
This year the corn is standing “like a trooper,” making it easy for the combines.
This season, Mr. Tuttle has his 87-year-old father out running the combine.
“I wouldn’t normally have him do it if we had downed corn or issues. But it’s been so smooth that he just sits in the combine and goes back and forth. And he’s just grinning and having a good time,” he said.
Mr. Tuttle’s corn yields are up 20% to 25% over last year. In some areas, 10% to 20% of the corn is still standing because farmers are trying to figure out where to put it, Mr. Tuttle said.
“There’s just a lot of bushels to handle this year,” he said.
Early in the harvest, the grain elevators were getting wetter corn and they could only handle so much of it. Farm drying systems can only do a set amount of bushels per day, Tuttle said, so that slowed the harvest down. The Mississippi River system has been running shallow so less grain could go down the river. The railroad system was backed up. The processors were backed up.
Farmers who normally raise 200 bushel corn crops, have 240 to 250 bushel crops this year.
“That’s another 25%.They have to find trucks. They have to find bins space, dryer capacity. But that’s a good problem,” Mr. Tuttle said.
Farmers can handle the logistics, he said. The spoiler at the party is inflation. Input costs continue to be “really really high.” Diesel costs are $4.80 a gallon.
“Just in harvest costs alone, I use about two-and-a-half gallons of diesel per acre. So just in fuel, my harvest costs are way over $10,” Mr. Tuttle said.
Fertilizer costs have gone up. The fertilizer is shipped to Illinois on the Mississippi. Low water levels mean they can’t load up the barges. So barge freight costs have gone up. Solvent is in short supply. Natural gas for drying corn costs more. Propane is higher. Parts for farm machinery cost more. Interest rates have doubled so money costs more.
“We’re handling more bushels. We’re handling more money. But when it’s all said and done, the net on the bottom end is probably no better than any other year,” Mr. Tuttle said.