The worst U.S. drought in decades sizzled farmland last year and cost Illinois its spot as the nation's second-biggest corn producer.
A U.S. Department of Agriculture report on 2012 crops shows that Illinois slumped to fourth among corn-producing states. It was overtaken by Minnesota and Nebraska, while Iowa still heads the pack.
The USDA says Illinois farmers produced 1.3 billion bushels of corn in 2012. That's down from 1.9 billion bushels each of the previous two years.
“The effects of this drought and the implications of everything that’s happened is something that’s going to haunt us in production agriculture for a number of years,” says Greg Guenther, who farms corn and soybeans near Belleville, Ill. “If we don’t get some rains and snows this winter, and it stays dry through the summer like they’re talking about, things could be even worse next year.”
Guether says he’s closely watching the shipping situation on the Mississippi River. Normally fertilizers used in spring planting are shipping up the river this time of year, but load restrictions due to low water have reduced the size of those shipments. That, in turn, is likely to raise input costs across the corn-belt.
The state's soybean growers harvested 383.6 million bushels of soybeans. That fell from 423 million in 2011 and 466 million the year before that.
Last year was Illinois' second warmest and 10th driest year on record as the nation grappled with the worst U.S. drought in decades.