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Drought Taking Toll on Midwest Corn Producers


DU BOIS, Illinois — Record high temperatures and lack of rain across the United States continue to fuel the worst drought in a generation. For some farmers in the hardest hit areas, like the Midwest state of Illinois, the damage to corn and soybeans is already severe. Farmers are facing tough decisions about what to do with their wilting crops.

One of those farmers, Alan Bowers Junior, can see and hear the profits from his corn disintegrating. The corn stalks on his field near Du Bois Illinois are so dry and brittle, they break up just by touching them. None of the stalks are producing usable corn.

Because of the drought, thousands of hectares of his farm are in similar shape.

"It's very devastating," said Bowers. "You drive past it every day. It's out your back door. You get up in the morning, and you think it might be another 13 months before we get a paycheck. The corn and soybean crop is our paycheck."

In mid-July, Bowers made a heart-wrenching decision. Faced with a near total loss of his corn crop, he decided to cut it down.

"We are making what they call corn silage out of this for the animals, for the cows, and if you wait until it's completely dried up it won't even make suitable feed for the animals," Bowers explained. "So we have to do it in a timely fashion before the hot temperatures and winds dry it out even more and turns it completely into you might say dust."

Dust is the consistency of much of Bowers' farmland, exposed to the wind now that the stalks are cut down. Some of the only stalks left standing are for crop insurance adjusters to inspect.

Alan Bowers and his wife Lori are hoping for a modest insurance settlement just so that they can make ends meet until next year.

"We have no boss, and nobody to help us, and it's tough, you have to work together you have to work with a husband a wife and family and together try to work through it," Lori Bowers explained.

The remaining land on the Bowers farm is filled with soybeans, and unless a significant amount of rain falls in the next several weeks, the outlook for production is just as grim.

Lori's husband Alan says if next year is anything like the present, he isn't sure the farm that has been in his family for four generations can survive.

"It will be five times as challenging as what it is this year," Alan Bowers noted.

Bowers adds that the only way to prevent losing his farm is to have more of what he and his wife have been praying for this year, rain.
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    Kane Farabaugh

    Kane Farabaugh is the Midwest Correspondent for Voice of America, where since 2008 he has established Voice of America's presence in the heartland of America.

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