It may take some time for area farmers to get the grins off their faces this fall as a perfect storm has hit the Kankakee County region.

This storm has little to do with high winds or heavy rain. Rather, it is a collision of abundant corn and soybean harvests and high grain prices. It will mean a highly profitable year for farmers and the agriculture industry as a whole.

“I’m very happy,” said Jason Zimmer, president of the Kankakee County Corn Growers’ Association and a farmer in the Reddick and Essex regions.

Like so many area farmers, Zimmer, 58, is experiencing strong per-acre yields with corn and soybeans. And, to top it off, harvest began a little earlier than normal, meaning much of the fall’s harvest will be under roof before costumed youngsters knock on their doors in search of candy.

“The corn I’ve seen, I don’t know if it’s the best we’ve ever had, but it’s very good,” he said. “I’m certainly happy with our yields.”

Countywide, corn is projected to yield in the mid-190 per-acre range. For soybeans, farmers are expecting yields of 60 to 80 bushels per acre. Some farmers are even posting yields up to 90 bushels per acre for soybeans.

Timely summer rains led to a nearly perfect growing season here. The region was only hit once with a hot, dry spell in late August to early September.

Kankakee County Farm Bureau Director Chad Miller noted that as of the Oct. 3 state farm report, 41 percent of the Illinois corn crop has been harvested and 32 percent of soybeans were under roof. Those numbers compare to 24 percent of corn and 23 percent of soybeans in 2020.

“Harvest is moving along much quicker,” Miller said, nothing that farmers are overjoyed in getting their products to market as prices are running high as well.

Miller noted per-bushel prices are in the $5 range for corn and soybeans are in the $12 to $12.50 per-bushel range.

“That spells profit,” Miller said. “It’s a bumper crop. This could rank as one of the better crops seen in Kankakee County. And with better prices as well, this could be a very profitable year.”

That is certainly good news as farming is king in Illinois, where agriculture is the top industry in terms of economic input. It contributes more than $8.85 billion to the state’s economy annually, according to the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture.

Here in Kankakee County, agriculture is a major economic driver as well. That means the profitable harvest will have a trickle-down effect resulting in increased revenues for many.

According to data from Miller, 17 percent of all economic output within the county is related to agriculture. Some 72 percent of all Kankakee County land is dedicated to farming. The county is comprised of 432,997 acres. Of that, nearly 313,000 acres are devoted to farmland, according to the 2017 Census of Agriculture.

Greg St. Aubin, a Manteno farmer and president of the Kankakee County Farm Bureau, is still pinching himself as he watches the grain being piled into his combine’s grain tank.

Farming some 3,000 acres with two other farmers, he is seeing yields that could be as high as 20 percent above 2020’s harvest.

“It’s been just a great growing season,” he said, noting that he’s already at least one-third of the way finished with harvest.

“We needed a win,” he said. “We had been on the lower end of state yields the past couple years, so this is good. It’s like walking into Las Vegas and getting that big win.”

Lee Provost, an award-winning reporter, has been writing local news stories for The Daily Journal since 1988. He is a lifelong resident of the region. Provost can be reached at lprovost@daily-journal.com.