Elevated river levels, rainfall and saturated soil are delaying planting and harvest of last season's crops

Farmers in Northeast Missouri are facing substantial challenges and delays in planting as they work on sections of saturated farm land that received another round of rain Tuesday.

Last year's spring was similarly cool and damp, but the soil was not saturated like it is this season, said Joe Kendrick, local farmer and Marion County Farm Bureau president. He has been working on ruts on his farm, and recently removed crops from last season, he said.

The delayed harvest and planting is affecting farmers throughout Northeast Missouri and much of the country, said Brent Hoerr, who farms on the Mississippi River bottoms and serves as secretary with the Missouri Corn Growers Association.

Hoerr saw something he had never seen before during a trip through Omaha, Nebraska — a combine was harvesting crops from 2018, while another farmer was planting new crops within 100 yards.

“It's been a challenging year for a lot of people,” he said.

Hoerr and Kendrick have both had to hold off on planting, because the ground remains too wet. Hoerr almost got stuck a couple times as he filled in old ruts and created new ones on his land. He and his neighbors along the Mississippi River are accustomed to adapting to the river's conditions. Recent rainfall is causing the river level to rise again after a decline in past weeks.

“But I did get started planting — I hadn't planted very much,” he said. “When you farm in the river bottoms, you have to wait for the river to go down when it's like this. Right now, we wait until things get dry, and it just got a lot wetter today.”

Hoerr and Kendrick were both hopeful for sunny days and 10- to 20-mph winds that could help dry the ground for planting. Kendrick said that as farmers adapt for what Mother Nature brings to the area, they focus on other tasks so they are fully prepared for dry conditions that are right for planting. But he said Tuesday's rains were likely to set the process back several days.

“It's going to be crunch time once we are able to get going again after this... we'll be into May, and it will be time to really hit it hard,” he said.

trevor.mcdonald@courierpost.com