According to the USDA’s most recent Crop Progress report, corn planting across the major producing states is trailing behind historical averages in part due to unfavorable weather conditions and an ever-tightening window of opportunity for farmers to get into fields and get the crop in the ground.
The report, which was the USDA’s first of the year to include corn planting statistics, indicates just 3% of corn among the 18 major corn producing states has been planted, compared to 6% at this time a year ago. The widespread late start can be attributed to the long, cold winter which has left fields’ soil temperatures below minimal acceptable marks for corn planting, and in some cases, still covered in frost.
Farmers in the northern Corn Belt states are especially struggling to find days suitable for work in 2014, which could represent a larger trend that indicates today’s farmers have less time for planting than they did 35 years ago. Data collected by Purdue’s Ag Econ Prof Ben Gramig recently compared two time frames (1980-1994 versus 1995-2010), finding that Illinois and Iowa farmers have on average 11-12% fewer hours (a half-day in total) per week to plant.
This combination of factors has kept corn producers from getting this year’s crop into the ground early on, narrowing the planting window and creating a challenging environment. Despite these findings, there remains an ample amount of time ahead of farmers, including peak season in several states, to catch-up to historical planting averages on the way to a successful harvest.