Coronavirus Illinois: Farmers struggling to survive due to soggy spring, low commodity prices

MANHATTAN TOWNSHIP, Ill. (WLS) -- Illinois farmers are awaiting federal assistance as they struggle to survive COVID-19 and a soggy spring.

At Kestel Farms in Manhattan Township, some corn is up, but some is lost.

"The corn that's underwater, it's dead now," said Dave Kestel. "We'll have to replant all that."

Dave Kestel shot drone video of his family corn and soybean farm when it was underwater over the weekend.

"We need a whole lot of sunshine," he said.

Seasonal challenges for farmers are growing deeper this season with the pandemic pushing down commodity prices. That means a big pay cut when Kestel sells what he can harvest after this wet spring.

"I love my job," Kestel said. "But everything that's thrown at us now, it's just tough."

The federal government just announced $16 billion dollars of direct payments to assist American farmers and ranchers. With 72,000 farms in Illinois, Kestel expects to see a small amount of that.

"You're hoping and praying that things straighten out and you can stay afloat," he said.

Kestel hopes businesses reopen and the food supply chain resumes as it was. But as a farmer, he knows much of what happens is out of his control, so he will do as his ancestors did with whatever comes next, and adapt.

"We take a lot of pride in producing a safe, abundant food supply for not only people in the United States but around the world," he said. "It's a centennial farm. I don't want anything to happen to this. I will do what I have to do to continue on."
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