The summer yielded good weather for Ogle County farmers. There were timely rains. Not too much heat. Then there was the Aug. 10 wind storm.
Straight line winds of over 100 miles per hour hit the county, damaging trees, power lines and structures. Farmers saw corn get knocked down or laid over by the winds. The extent of the damage won’t be known until harvest this fall.
“If it went down and snapped, it’s done,” Ogle County Farm Bureau Manager Ron Kern said. “If it just got laid over, it will start to straighten itself out. The guys who have any downed corn will have a trying harvest.”
Harvesting wind-blown corn can be a slow and tedious process, Kern said. Farmers hopefully have a pickup reel on their corn head and go “extremely” slow. Sometimes it can only be picked in one direction.
Being laid over can also cause the corn to not mature fully and there’s an increased tendency for mold.
Kern said he’s unsure how many fields in the county got damage. He hasn’t seen any entire fields blown over, but there are “pockets and holes.” Some of those are out in the middle of fields where they can’t be seen.
The storm brought about frustrations, especially with local farmers hoping for a smooth year after last year’s bad weather that dragged out harvest and COVID-19’s adverse impacts on markets earlier this year.
“These late storms in the growing season, we had a great crop out there,” Kern said. “You’re looking forward to it, and then you lose 25-30 or 50 percent of it. It’s tough. Hopefully they have crop insurance. Most usually do.”
Polo Farmer Brian Duncan lives about eight miles south of where the storm hit worst in Forreston. Duncan said before the storm, farmers were getting by and feeling confident. Now, it’s “wait and see mode.”
Duncan said there are a lot of unknowns in the middle of fields and damage will depend on hillsides and geography.
“It’s all over the board,” Duncan said. “Some took it worse than others. We feel fortunate that as hard as it blew, what we have is still standing as well as it is.”
Some fields in Iowa were entirely blown over. Duncan said things in the area could be far worse.
As far as the prices farmers will eventually see, that’s another issue, Kern said.
“Commodity prices have been depressed for several years,” Kern said. “They’re not moving much. We still had a backlog in packing plants for hogs and cattle. That’s starting to correct itself. Unless we can increase demand for corn and soybeans, I don’t see these prices being much. It’s going to be another tough year on the farm.”