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Trouble could be brewing for farmers in the US Corn Belt

By John Roach, AccuWeather staff writer
May 03, 2019, 2:50:22 PM EDT

Midwest flooding

The Glenwood, Iowa, water plant stands in flood waters as corn stalks washed by the floods cover the surrounding area Wednesday, April 3, 2019. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

Corn planting is behind schedule in the United States because of the weather in four of the top six states for corn production -- and that situation is not expected to improve when the latest Crop Progress report is issued Monday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), according to an AccuWeather analysis.

Illinois, Minnesota, Indiana and South Dakota are the four states significantly behind schedule and expected to remain that way, according to AccuWeather meteorologists who have been analyzing the data. Those four states combined produce nearly 40% of the corn in the U.S. If the weather continues a wet pattern through late May, consumer prices could go up this summer.

Iowa and Nebraska, the other two states among the top six corn producers, are only slightly behind, according to data from the USDA.

“The question will be how much farther it will fall behind the pace,” said AccuWeather senior meteorologist Jason Nicholls. “It’s about a week behind schedule right now. If it were to go to a week and a half or two weeks, that’s big news.”

Corn is vital to Americans and the U.S. economy; as The Washington Post noted, “The grain is so ubiquitous that it would take longer to list the foods that contain traces of it than to pinpoint the ones that don’t.”

It is grown in most U.S. states, but the bulk of production is centered in Northern and Midwestern states known as the U.S. Corn Belt. The U.S. is the largest producer of corn in the world with almost 100 million acres of land reserved for corn production.

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Iowa and Illinois lead the way in corn production, combining for nearly one-third of the corn produced. However, rain throughout the early planting season, particularly in Illinois, has thwarted planting efforts.

“Most of the problems are because of consistent rains, plus there is also rain in the forecast,” Nicholls said. “Of the two key producing states, Iowa isn’t too bad, but Illinois is way off schedule.”

By this time of year, 43% of corn crops would already be planted in Illinois, according to the five-year average provided by the USDA. However, just 9% has been planted so far. Iowa averages 26% of crops planted at this point, and 21% has been planted so far.

Three of the other top corn producers are lagging behind this season so far. Minnesota (2% of corn crops planted by now compared to its five-year average of 24%), Indiana (2% compared to 17%) and South Dakota (0% compared to 17%) are also well off pace.

AccuWeather analysts don’t believe Monday’s Crop Progress will show much improvement.

"It was just too wet this week for there to be a national catch-up,” Nicholls said. “Most of the corn should be in the ground by May 15 in the South and by June 1 in the North. After those dates you start to risk losing significant yield.

“We think one of the weeks in late May will end up being drier, maybe at the end of the month,” Nicholls added. “But the week of May 6-12 looks pretty wet and May 13-19 doesn’t look good either.”

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