Metro-East News

Heavy rains cause flooding in metro-east farm fields, rivers

Farmers in the metro-east and statewide are struggling with soggy and flooded fields across Illinois caused by recent heavy rains that have kept them from fieldwork and prevented them from planting.

The average statewide rainfall as of Tuesday of 3.9 inches was just shy of the historic average for all of June, according to Jim Angel, state climatologist at the Illinois State Water Survey. The heaviest rainfall has been north of Springfield, including 7.6 inches in Peoria so far this month and about 10 inches in the Illinois River community of Lacon, Angel said.

Tom Jett, director of the Madison and St. Clair County Farm Bureaus, said he doesn’t think farmers have seen the worst of it yet.

“It’s a tropical depression now; it’s supposed to dump on us Friday,” he said. “There’s some wheat that is close to the harvest and the forecast is rain as far as the eye can see.”

Jett said while some farmers are done planting, other metro-east farmers still have soybeans to plant. Most of the corn that is going to be planted has been, he said, but the saturated fields aren’t doing anyone much good.

“They’re not in a good mood,” he said of local farmers. Some are still waiting to plant their fields, while others will have to replant fields that have simply been too soaked for good crops.

Jett said there is no dollar estimate yet as to the economic impact the heavy summer rains will have on the frustrated local farmers.

“They’re used to dealing with weather instability; it’s part of their occupation,” he said. “If you know a farmer, smile and say you understand.”

The Kankakee River was closed Saturday by the Illinois Department of Conservation and remains off limits to boaters because of flooding.

The recent storms have brought hail and flood damage to corn and soybean crops throughout the state, but the extent of the damage won’t be known until farmers are able to return to their fields, said director John Fulton of the Logan, Menard, Sangamon County Extension Office in Springfield.

“It’ll really take a week or two to assess the damage,” Fulton said. “Most folks aren’t inclined to put on their waders and go out into the fields.”

Farmer Wayne Cross, who tends to corn and soybeans near Buffalo, said the rains have caused fieldwork to come to a halt.

“We’ve done nothing in the fields in the past week,” said Cross, adding that it soon would be too late for farmers to replant crops damaged by days of standing water.

Monte and Susan Van Dyke, who live along the Effingham-Clay county line, said they will have to replant 300 acres of soybeans. Areas of their fields are so flooded that they’re almost like little lakes, complete with geese swimming on them, Susan Van Dyke said.

Bernie Walsh of Durand also is concerned about his 900 acres of corn and soybeans.

“Everything looked good for me until one day last week, and then some of my low spots began to fill up with water,” Walsh said. “If things don’t dry up fast, my soybeans will be drowned out. I know I will lose some crops. I can’t take another two or three inches of rain.”

Unfortunately for Walsh, another two to three inches are possible for the region over the next few days, according to Ernest Goetsch, meteorologist-in-charge at the National Weather Service in Lincoln. But a break in the weather has been predicted for next week.

Forecasters and farmers expect it could take one to two weeks for fields to dry and rivers to recede.