CENTRAL ILLINOIS (WCIA)– Jim Goss is trying his hand at planting two different crops in a single field in the same year at more experimental Clearview Farms northwest of Champaign. The practice, known as double cropping “adds a little bit more risk,” according to the farmer and vice president of real estate development company The Atkins Group.
President Joe Biden on Wednesday at a family farm in Kankakee outlined a plan to increase insurance eligibility for farmers to take on the added production in an effort to fight inflation in the U.S. and “abroad it’s helping Ukrainians defend their democracy and feeding those who are left hungry.”
For 11 weeks now, the “breadbasket” of eastern Europe has been under siege by Russian forces, slowing the production of the world’s staple foods.
Goss questioned Thursday whether the local supply chain is equipped to handle double the harvest and if the average central Illinois farmer is equipped to bring wheat to harvest in the first place. Of the staple crops in need, including wheat, barley and corn, “wheat is the only thing that will work here” in terms of double cropping, Goss said.
Ukraine planted more than 15 million acres of wheat in the winter of 2020-2021, according to commodity intelligence reports from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Farm policy experts say the Russian invasion could cut similar spring planting estimates in half and according to Goss, central Illinois may be an unlikely place to help fill in the expected gap.
“I’ve got 35 acres and I might be the second-largest wheat producer in the county,” Goss said
This is the second year he’s giving double cropping a try. He said the size and number of farmers working at Clearview Farms make risk a bit more manageable than it would be for the average farmer in Champaign County.
Goss said labor wouldn’t be the problem. Instead, “the more difficult part is probably the equipment. Not everybody in Champaign County’s got a grain drill.”
“Wheat lost favor in Champaign County a number of years ago because of lack of markets,” he added.
In other words, even if farmers succeed in producing wheat, the county doesn’t appear to have enough grain elevators to send it off to.
“We really only have one or two locations, so it becomes a little bit of a challenge for us to find the market,” Goss explained.
Then, there’s exporting the crop to those who are going hungry half a world away.
“Let’s talk a little bit about logistics,” Goss said when asked if the supply chain would allow for wheat harvested in Illinois to make it to Ukraine, China and other countries that have depended on the Ukrainian supply.
“This, we will get harvested in July. Best case scenario, can you really get it to Ukraine much before November? I mean, I think that’s mostly realistic,” he said, adding, “Again, this isn’t as high-quality wheat as what they grow in Ukraine.”
Central Illinois farmers are already an average of two weeks behind due to the weather, according to Goss.
On a brighter note, he says the selling price for a bushel of wheat doubled last year to $11 from $5.50 three years prior. If everything else lines up, the profit appears to be worth the risk.