PONTIAC, Ill. — As goes the farmers’ schedule, so goes all those who work with them.
The wet spring planting and harvest seasons not only messed up farmers’ plans, they also drop-kicked the schedules of commodity groups planning meetings, companies holding field days and businesses performing services for farmers.
Bryce Baker, Precision Planting’s marketing manager, felt the weather’s wrath when planning the Precision Technology Institute field days on soggy fields near Pontiac, Illinois, in Livingston County.
The weather essentially backed up the start of the Illinois field days by two weeks, pushing them off until late July, and backed up the final field days until after Labor Day in September.
“These events are for farmers to come and learn so they have to be when farmers can come and learn,” Baker said.
Planning the timing for field days is even trickier because people come from all over the world for these — not just from central Illinois. The timing has to be early enough for farmers in the southern U.S. and also suit the needs of farmers coming from Ontario, Canada.
“We’re affected by the weather as much as the farmers are,” Baker said.
Test plots were planted in both April and June on the Pontiac farm, just the same as on most farms across the Midwest this year.
“There’s 45 days difference between our first and our last planted,” he said.
As of Nov. 4, half the corn at Precision Planting’s plots still needed to be harvested. In some cases, getting on the ground while too wet will ruin results of the trials, Baker said. For example, in strip till, if ruts ruin the rows, results next year will have to be thrown out as well.
Years like this present the same challenges for universities. Nathan Kleczewski, crop scientist and University of Illinois Extension educator, said organizations and companies who partner on research with the university are asking for results now.
They want the information for their publications and meetings soon, but data is still coming in as harvest continues.
“It’s been a tough year,” Kleczewski said, adding there are some “pretty good results.”
Counting on corn growers
It is not just the groups who work outdoors who changed plans this season. It is also those who plan other meetings farmers attend — especially those involving voting and quorums.
Illinois Corn decided to stick with its planned date for an annual meeting this fall, but will change its venue.
“The Illinois Corn Growers Association board considered moving its annual meeting away from the standard ‘Tuesday before Thanksgiving’ meeting time, but decided that the unpredictability of harvest and Mother Nature didn’t merit moving a meeting from a standing date with longevity,” said Ted Mottaz, ICGA president.
“Together, the board voted to hold the meeting and donate the time to conduct the business of the association, even if stepping away from harvest 2019 for one day was required.”
In the past, the meeting had been held at a larger venue in conjunction with the Farm Assets Conference in Normal, Illinois. The full-day conference included a variety of guest speakers, but that pre-Thanksgiving event was canceled this year.
Instead, Illinois Corn will meet from 8 to 10 a.m. Nov. 26. at the Asmark Agricenter in Bloomington this year. The annual meeting will include updates for growers and the annual awards ceremony.
This meeting adjustment follows some changes this spring as well.
“We moved our June meeting forward and held a shortened meeting in May when we saw that our leaders weren’t going to be in the field yet,” said Lindsay Mitchell, Illinois Corn marketing director. “We had business that we had to get out of the way so we couldn’t cancel entirely.”
The same wet month also threw a wrench in the plans of the Illinois Soybean Association meeting planners.
“For the first time in many years, we cancelled our June board of directors meeting because of the wet, late planting season and lack of quorum,” said Stephen Sostaric, ISA’s meeting and travel coordinator.
“We strategically consolidated our June business into our July board of directors meeting, allowing us to keep moving forward while respecting our leaders’ time and saving the organization money.
“Our priority is ensuring we have enough board members in attendance to constitute a quorum (in our case that’s two-thirds of our sitting directors). Without a quorum, we can have discussion, but decisions and votes are invalid, and it’s nearly impossible to conduct official business.”
Sometimes technology allows for meeting remotely when in-person isn’t possible.
“In theory, it’s nice that we can provide this alternative. In reality, these tools often require a reliable internet connection — another challenge facing our leaders who live or farm in remote areas,” he said.
ISA prepared in advance for a later-than-normal harvest.
“In anticipation, we proactively scheduled our fall meeting for the first week in December, two weeks later than it is normally held. We are hopeful that this effort will allow most of our farmer leaders, if not all of them, to attend our meeting,” Sostaric said.