VENEDY, Ill. — In southern Illinois, as in most of the Corn Belt, the 2023 corn and soybean harvest is shaping up to be a year of averages — and variability.
“In general, things are looking OK. Corn is average to below average. The beans, I would say, are going to be average, a little bit above, a little bit below. Guys are working on machines, cleaning bins out and getting ready for harvest. A few are finishing up silage chopping and those appraisals are all over the board,” said Eric Brammeier.
One ongoing concern for farmers is the impact that drought is having on Mississippi River levels.
“Plenty of my customers haul direct to the river terminals and the latest report I got is that they are only filling barges about 75% because the draft is that low. What that means for everyone is that basis will increase,” said the Washington County farmer.
“The lower the river drops, the more the basis is going to increase because they can’t fill the barges full. Freight costs, for that barge freight, are going up, too.”
In addition to the impact on basis levels, Brammeier said farmers and elevator operators are worried because those low water levels are coming at a time when river levels typically drop.
“It’s going to be a deal. Low river levels on the Mississippi are going to impact us and we are going into what is traditionally the dry time of the year anyway. So, to expect those river levels to come up and maintain at full levels is probably not going to happen,” he said.
The increase in basis also affects rail bids.
“Whatever the river bid is, my elevators are 40 to 50 miles from the river terminal. They get a rail bid and a river bid. If the river bid goes down, the rail bid goes down too because they don’t have to bid as high. The low river levels are a big deal and that ripples out from those river terminals,” the farmer said.
Brammeier has not only his own harvest that he’s preparing for, but he also wants his crop insurance customers to be prepared for what they might find when they start harvesting their corn and soybeans. One possible issue that could appear are mycotoxin and aflatoxin in corn.
“If producers have suffered serious, extended dry weather, mycotoxins and aflatoxin in corn, they need to call their crop insurance agent immediately. I would encourage producers who think they might have a problem to call their agent and send in a sample to be tested for aflatoxin,” Brammeier said.
“We haven’t detected any high levels yet, but if anybody suspects there might be an issue, it’s always better to get a sample tested and know before you feed it or put it in your bin.”
And speaking of bins, farmers who went the “store and ignore” route with grain from 2022 need to remember it now and get their bins measured if they are holding carryover grain.
“Before they put the new crop in on top of that carryover grain, they must get their bin measured before they commingle last year’s grain with this year’s grain. If they clean their bins out, no problem. But if they intend to commingle last year’s grain with this year’s grain, they need to get it measured first,” Brammeier said.
As soon as harvest wraps up in southern Illinois, many farmers will be looking toward yet another planting season, to get winter wheat sown.
Farmers have until Sept. 30 to lock those wheat insurance policies in for the growing year.
“It’s wheat policy time for us down here. We are just getting going quoting wheat policies for ‘24. The beginning price is being averaged right now so I will be giving quotes out to my customers. We’ll be doing more before harvest starts so they can lock in their wheat policies for this coming year,” Brammeier said.
Winter wheat planting usually gets done in his area in the first 10 days of October and drier weather for planting winter wheat isn’t a concern.
“Dry ground is much better than wet to really wet. Really wet is never good for wheat. It’s like the saying, sow in dust, the bins will bust,” Brammeier said.
“I don’t mind at all sowing wheat into perfectly dry dirt. We did that last year and some of the wheat didn’t come up until it rained and we had great yields.”