BLOOMINGTON — A harsh drought hurt McLean County corn yields in 2012, but not farmers’ pocketbooks, according to data from Busey Bank.
About 200 local business leaders heard that and other positive economic indicators at the bank’s 15th annual McLean County Economic Seminar Tuesday at Illinois Wesleyan University’s Hansen Student Center. Bank Vice Chairman Ed Scharlau presented the data along with his own remarks.
Though corn yields dropped during the summer drought, higher prices and about $98 million in crop insurance claims meant farmers earned more money last year than in 2011. McLean County’s crop sales and payouts from crop insurance totaled about $627 million in 2012. In 2011, $580 million in crop sales were largely unaffected by crop insurance, Scharlau said.
“If you add the crop insurance onto the agricultural output figures last year … farmers had the best year they’ve ever had,” Scharlau said.
McLean County retail sales also jumped 10 percent in 2012, from about $2.3 billion to $2.5 billion, Scharlau said, citing Illinois Department of Revenue figures.
New car sales may have been a significant part of that increase. Bloomington had an increase of 33.5 percent in automobile and truck sales last year, and Normal saw a 13.3 percent increase, Scharlau said. By contrast, Champaign’s sales figures climbed just 3.1 percent.
“I think every farmer bought a new car,” Scharlau said.
Scharlau pointed toward the ease with which homes sell in McLean County as another indicator of a strengthening economy. New homes in Bloomington and Normal totaled 252 last year, compared to 196 in 2012.
Scharlau spoke briefly on the price of farmland in the county, which he said now averages about $12,000 to $13,000 per acre, and noted 78 acres in Stanford recently sold for $15,000 per acre.
Scharlau’s data was useful for Allen DeVary, a lawyer with Hartweg, Turner, Wood & DeVary in Bloomington.
“We do a lot of estate planning in (farming) or agriculture … and he made reference to the price of farmland and how it’s increased,” DeVary said. “That type of background information is always helpful.”