Despite possible late start, farmers looking at good crops

Published 4:59 pm Saturday, October 4, 2014

Harvest could kick into gear in Mower County this week if Mother Nature cooperates and the weather dries out.

While the harvest is looking to be a bit late, some Mower County farmers are looking at a solid crop.

“We’re looking at a pretty good crop coming in, but we are behind,” Lyle area farmer Ron Frank said.

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“Overall, it looks like as good a crop as the last three to four years,” added Frank, who has corn and soybeans.

Larry Larson, who grows corn, soybeans and alfalfa near Sargeant, agreed this has been a good year for the crops.

“I’m expecting as good a crop as I’ve ever had,” he said.

Hammered by prices

But the good crop doesn’t necessarily make for a banner year overall. Forecasts of a mammoth U.S. harvest have pushed prices down to levels not seen in several years.

“It’s going to hammer us,” Grand Meadow farmer Marlin Fay said.

Fay added weather conditions have will likely keep Minnesota farmers from setting yield records.

“We won’t set record yields here,” Fay said.

Reports from elsewhere in the Corn Belt, however, point to record yields in many other states. The corn crop, in particular, is shaping up to be a bin-buster. USDA is forecasting record corn production and record soybean production this fall.

As of Sept. 1, Minnesota’s corn yields were forecast at 170 bushels an acre, up 10 bushels from last year.

Soybean production in Minnesota was forecast at 42 bushels an acre.

Fay was recently in Illinois, where he said the crops looked strong. Similarly, Larson was recently in Ohio, where he said the crop looked good, but it was also a bit behind.

Frank said the high yields make for a challenging year when it comes to profits.

“Looks like a pretty good crop, but crop prices are in the tank,” Frank said.

For some, the lower prices are good. Larson also raises hogs, and he said lower feed prices are a positive on the livestock front.

But if things don’t improve, Fay said prices could come in lower than the cost of production for crops.

“It’s going to be a challenge with the prices going down and an adjustment for everyone to get used to,” Fay said.

But strong yields aren’t the only thing pulling down prices. Foreign trades are also down, as Darrell Ingvaldson, a Mower County Farm Bureau insurance agent, said Russia cut its grain imports, and Frank said exports to China have waned, though he said that could reverse.

On the flip side, Frank said the Absolute Energy LLC in St. Ansgar creates local demand for corn, and it helps keep crops local.

 Early rain, late hail

For the most part, conditions were better than the droughts of a few years ago years and the spring rains that kept some fields from being planted last year, but they were far from perfect.

Flooding in June washed out some fields and hail near Blooming Prairie, Waltham and Sargeant on Sept. 20 badly damaged some fields, according to Ingvaldson.

“We’ve got a lot of shredded corn and some of the bean fields are a 90 percent loss,” he said.

In Grand Meadow, Fay said they lost the tops of some soybeans from the hail, and early September frost also damaged the top of some soybeans.

“I don’t think it hurt the corn as much as it hurt the beans,” Fay said of the hail.

Larson got some hail on his fields, but he said the rest of the crop looks good.

“Where we didn’t get hail everything looks really, really good,” he said.

Thanks to a late winter and a wet spring, farmers planted late this year, meaning they’re still waiting for some corn to mature.

“It’s been too wet and the maturity hasn’t been there,” Larson said.

Over the weekend, many farmers were waiting. Along with waiting for crops to mature, farmers are also waiting for corn moisture to drop from about 33 percent right now to below 25 percent before harvest.

After the weather dries out, the beans should be coming in soon, as Frank said there’s a small window for the bean harvest after they’re mature.

Though some expect harvest could last into November, it could be kicking off quickly when the weather turns.

“If the weather straightens out, we get some drying weather, some sunshine, it’ll change around pretty fast,” Frank said.

—The Associated Press contributed to this report.