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Delays leave corn in the field, farmers struggling to harvest

Craig, left, and Josh Weseman harvest corn Thursday in a field just northeast of Grove City. Area farmers are having a torrid time in the fields. The recent wet and then wintry weather has put farmers behind and most are reporting that at least 25 percent of their crop still remains. Tribune photo by Bill Zimmer

WILLMAR -- About one quarter of the area's corn crop is still standing in the fields and farmers are struggling in the mud, rain and snow to bring in the crop.

John Mages, a Belgrade-area farmer and secretary of the Minnesota Corn Growers Association, said Thursday that 25 percent of his corn crop is still in the field.

His neighbors are in a similar position.

"We are struggling. It's muddy," he said. "The ground thawed out with the rain."

Mages was harvesting on Thursday, but only the combine was in the fields, as the mud was too thick for grain trucks.

Yields were pretty good, but the moisture levels were registering in the low-20 percent range, he said. Dropping that percentage to 15 percent will add cost to the delayed crop.

"The gas bill will be plenty high at the end of the month," he said.

In Meeker County, farmers were estimating 25 percent of the crop was still in the field as of Nov. 7, according to Laurie Boll, program technician at the county Farm Service Agency office. Thanks to the opening weekend of the firearms deer season and snow, that number probably hasn't changed much, she noted.

"The snow is plugging up the combines," Boll said. Farmers are facing more rain, which just adds to the two-week delay they have faced since the beginning of the crop year. "It's going to be an old-fashioned harvest," she said, adding that farmers used to work into November to bring in the crop. Now, modern equipment, along with decent weather, helps farmers to harvest much more quickly.

Farmers are reporting yields all over the board, FSA executive director Wes Nelson said. The range is from 125 to 225 bushels per acre. He's hoping the average yield will fall at 175 bushels per acre, a bit better than last year.

The local estimates match closely the state crop progress report, which indicated that 75 percent of the state's corn crop was harvested as of Sunday. That compared to 54 percent the week before, but lagged far behind the five-year average of 90 percent and last year's harvest of 95 percent.

Corn moisture was 20 percent as of Sunday, compared to 21 percent last week, 15 percent last year and 17 percent on the five-year average.

The sugarbeet harvest was 95 percent complete, compared to 94 percent last week and 100 percent last year and for the five-year average.