Unprecedented spring rain still affecting Illinois farmers, communities where they live

Data pix.

HERSCHER, Ill. — Farmers are generally an optimistic group, but record-setting spring rain cut planting season in northern Illinois and has led to growing pessimism. It’s not just about the money, and in some cases, it’s taking a mental toll as well.

As mid-summer arrived, it was obvious farmers were way behind. Instead of being head high, corn was ankle high, the by-product of persistent spring rains delaying planting for weeks.

“Having all the farm equipment in the world didn’t matter and all the help. You couldn’t physically get across the ground. You can only go as fast as your ground allows,” farmer Donnie Benoit said.

Kankakee County Farm Bureau Manager Chad Miller said it’s a situation that farmers in this area have never faced, and his office is fielding more requests from farmers needing help.

“Farmers are in a tough situation. We’ve been doing a lot of education on the importance of mental health. Farmers are really struggling with a lot of things this year,” Miller said.

Less crop will not only have an impact on the farmer’s bottom line, but also many others in Kankakee County. Miller said 17% of the county’s economic output and roughly one in 12 jobs relate to agriculture.

It’s easy to imagine how businesses in a small town like Herscher in the southwest corner of the county could be impacted by a weak agricultural year. The town’s grain elevator would handle less crop. Farmers aren’t going to be looking to buy new equipment at the local dealership. And cars at the Chevrolet dealership may sit on the lot for longer as well.

The true impact of this spring may not be completely felt for nearly a year, but there are safety nets, like insurance, to help farmers.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker is pushing for federal resources as well, by seeking a statewide agriculture disaster declaration.

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