Corn crop could set records in Illinois and Iowa

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Nearly all the 2012 corn crop is planted in Illinois after an early start. Iowa only has a third of its fields to go.

This planting season is one for the books for a longtime Rock Island County farmer.

Darrel Hofer knows a lot about growing corn. That's why he's selling a truckload of last year's harvest for export. It's because prices are dropping for the 2012 crop.

"They're definitely discounting the prices already," he said. "They expect to have a plentiful supply."

It's already a history-making spring for the fourth generation farmer. Ag projections are calling for a massive corn harvest this fall. That's the earliest Hofer's heard such a forecast.

"The experts have got a record number of acres planted," Hofer said. "Quite a bit of it is in the ground."

Hofer began planting his 1,400 acres on April 11. Only one other year beat that date. There's no time to look back. Corn plants are sprouting in the fields.

It's a similar story in Iowa. That's where two-thirds of the corn is planted. It's adding sparks to the talk about a bumper crop.

But while early planting usually leads to a better harvest, it's tempered by reality in the corn belt.

"For the guys that are in the trenches, planting and watching it on a day-to-day basis, they're probably looking at it more realistically," said DeAnne Bloomberg, Rock Island County Farm Bureau.

Four inches of rain during the last eight days brought soybean planting to a standstill at Hofer's farm.

"We have quite a bit of ponding in the flat areas," he said.

Even with the recent wet weather, Illinois soybean planting is tripling its five-year average. In Iowa, soybean planting equals 2011's pace with 7% in the ground.

Back at the grain truck, golden corn offers optimism about the 2012 crop. But it's also a crop that's just starting to grow.

"It's a long ways from made yet," he concluded. "We can get a lot of heat and a lot of dry conditions that can happen."

For Darrel Hofer, it's a chance to drive a deal from the farm.