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Henry County corn chopping evidence of national drought disaster

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It's a dramatic and devastating impact from the drought. Extreme weather is forcing some local farmers to give up on their corn crop.

This is a bitter harvest of sorts in rural Henry County on Monday.

"It's a lot of extra work," said Dave Weber, a fourth generation farmer in Geneseo. "A lot of unknowns."

On another cloud-free day, a crew called in from Tipton, Iowa, is chopping down the corn.

This land normally produces abundant crops. But drought dried the plants and left them at a tiny fraction of its potential.

The Weber family, which also operates a feed lot for up to 4,000 cattle, made the difficult decision to literally cut their losses.

"After you get into a field, you realize there's a lot less than you originally expected," said Justin Weber, Weber Beef.

And they aren't alone. The Illinois Weather & Crops Report released August 6 rates 74% of Illinois corn in poor to very poor condition.

The Webers left a test strip for crop insurance adjusters. It shows the stress of their worst crop in 25 years.

"Most of the stalks do not have any ears on them," Justin said. "This is how most of the field looked."

Fields parched by drought were lost to extreme weather. Deep cracks in the soil serve as a painful illustration.

"It just could not handle the drought and high heat," Justin said.

The Webers are turning the lost crop into silage. They created a mountain of it by their cattle lot within a few days. When they finish chopping corn, it will leave some 1,500 tons of substitute cattle feed.

With their feed prices recently doubling, the silage becomes more important than ever. The Webers continue to feed more cattle from drought-parched areas of the country.

"A lot of the feed we buy, we may not be able to get," Dave said.

As pastures continue to burn out, cattle will eat the silage instead of more costly and less available feed.

"It's unknown until it's all said and done," Dave said.

Irrigated fields show some hope for the harvest. The Webers believe it will begin by Labor Day.

But corn chopping is a sickening sound for them. As they put it, evidence of a national disaster.

"It's been a very disappointing year," Justin concluded.

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