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Despite drought, Lake County harvests turning out OK

Charlie Goodw(left) Zioperates combine while harvesting corn with Larry Richards Zisouthwest corner Rte. 173 Kilbourne Road Newport Township. | Thomas

Charlie Goodwin (left) of Zion operates a combine while harvesting corn with Larry Richards of Zion on the southwest corner of Rte. 173 and Kilbourne Road in Newport Township. | Thomas Delany Jr.~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: December 18, 2012 2:06AM

Just about all of Lake County’s soybeans have been harvested and now farmers are working on the corn, ending a surprising growing season that endured heat and drought.

“It’s been a strange one,” said Zion farmer Dave Richards. “We got out early this year, then got hit by rain.”

Then they got hit by the heat and drought.

Despite all the problems, “the crops were a little better than everyone thought they would be,” he said.

Richards, who started farming when he was in high school back in the ’60s, now lives on a 30-acre farm just outside Zion and leases another 1,000 acres. His son, Mike, works alongside his father and also leases some 500 acres.

“We farm together and eventually he’ll take it all over,” said Richards.

“It’s been beautiful for harvesting,” Richards said, even though it’s been a little slow for him because of the moisture in the corn. “It’s going to take a little more gas to dry the corn.”

Richards said prices have fallen a bit for both corn and soybeans, but this year has turned out all right.

Greg Koeppen of the Lake County Farm Bureau based in Grayslake said the harvest has been going well across the county.

“This will be one of the earliest harvests we’ve seen in Lake County,” said Koeppen. “We’ve pretty much finished soybeans and are working on the corn now.”

Statewide, the situation is the same in terms of the early corn harvest, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service. As of Sept. 30, 71 percent of the state’s corn crop was harvested compared to 29 percent at the same time last year. The five-year average is 33 percent.

In terms of harvest, Koeppen said that for the most part, most areas produced below-average yields, “but prices have held throughout,” he said.

“There’s no disaster area in Lake County,” he added and we won’t see farmers going out of business because of the weather.

“This was one of the hottest and driest growing seasons in many years,” said Koeppen. “We need to put this year behind us and look toward 2013.”

This year started out well with farmers able to hit the fields early with a quick warm up in the spring. Then the drought and heat hit, although some areas received some rain at the right time.

Statewide, corn is yielding 98 bushels per acre, down 12 bushels from the forecast. It was 38 percent less than last year’s crop.

Soybeans yielded 63 bushels per acre, up two bushels from last year’s yield. Total production is expected to be down 19 percent from last year.

Nationwide, corn is forecast to reach 10.7 billion bushels, down 13 percent from last year. It represents the lowest production since 2006. Soybeans are forecast to reach 2.86 billion bushels, down 8 percent from last year.

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