For many Marion County farmers, the past few days without rain have helped to dry saturated farmland and aid in planting that had been delayed throughout the season.
Farmers along the Mississippi River bottoms are still facing flooded sections of land, however, after water topped a levee protecting the Marion County Drainage District last Thursday.
During the traditional spring planting season, area farmers struggled to work saturated land and remove last year's crops in several instances. Persistent rainfall also prevented planting.
With a break from the rain, that situation has changed for many farmers this week. Ground is starting to dry in many areas. Flooding continues to impact farmers near the swollen Mississippi River, though, with farmers planting sporadically in small spots the water didn't reach.
Brent Hoerr farms on the Mississippi River bottoms and said the levee that protects the drainage district for him and his neighbors is right next to his house. The recent dry period has brought water levels down near his home, he said, but the water was still within 50 feet of his garage.
“Right now, the water's gone down a little bit, so all of the ground that's in front of our house will probably not be planted this year,” he said. “With the levee break and (areas) underwater right now, probably by the time the water gets off, it'll be too late to plant. I'm not sure how long it will take to go down, but it will be a while.”
Hoerr said neighbors are running their planters in areas that are dry enough. He hopes to begin planting by the end of the week on a small section of his farmland in the neighboring Fabius River Drainage District — the majority of his land is in the flooded Marion County Drainage District.
“I've got about 30 or 40 acres I can plant — so not very much — but I'm going to try to get what I can,” he said.
Hoerr stressed that the last couple days have been beneficial in bringing water levels down in flooded areas, and he and many of his neighbors continue to monitor the levels on the wet areas and work the land wherever they can.
A few miles away from the river, Marion County Farm Bureau President and area farmer Joe Kendrick said that he had been planting until dark for the past two days. He estimated that he had close to 60 percent of his corn crop planted late Wednesday morning, and he will continue to plant until dark if it doesn't rain.
“I'm doing really well,” he said. “We're finally planting corn for 2019.”
He said the market price for corn had jumped about 60 cents from May to June, and he attributed much of that change to the amount of corn that had not yet been planted. He said the ground conditions weren't ideal, but neighboring farmers were also busy getting seed in the ground during the break from the heavy spring rainfall.
The National Weather Service is forecasting thunderstorms and rain — ranging from a 30 percent chance for storms Thursday and Friday to a 50 percent chance of storms for Saturday in Marion County. Area farmers are remaining vigilant regarding soil conditions, weather patterns and what the future might bring — Kendrick stressed “it's in God's hands.”
“We'll take each day in stride and do the best we can,” he said.