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County yield, production estimates for 2011 released by USDA

WILLMAR -- The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently released the county yield and production estimates for 2011.

The estimates confirm that local corn and soybean production was down significantly from the record-breaking levels of 2010. But considering how disagreeable the weather was at times during the growing season, farmers were generally quite pleased with the way the year ended up.

An extremely wet spring resulted in a majority of the corn and soybeans being planted after their preferred planting timeframes. And due to the planting delays, many farmers were forced to plant crops in less than ideal soil conditions.

In late June and early July, several outbreaks of severe thunderstorms produced strong gusty winds, which caused a greater than normal amount of green snap in corn fields.

Starting in August and continuing through the remainder of the growing season, rainfall amounts were well below normal and resulted in some extremely dry topsoil conditions by early fall.

On the morning of Sept. 15, light to moderate frost damage occurred over much of Minnesota. While frost damage was clearly visible on most of the corn and soybeans, the late planted soybeans seemed to have suffered the most damage with yield losses that were clearly evident at time of harvest.

Probably the most pleasant surprise of the growing season was that despite the later than normal planting dates, the extremely dry conditions in September and early October allowed the corn crop to dry down naturally, resulting in better than expected test weights and little need for artificial drying.

But the reduced yields of 2011 were not just limited to local farmers. Corn and soybean production and yields were also lower statewide.

USDA estimated that Minnesota farmers harvested 1.2 billion bushels of corn in 2011, down 7 percent from the previous year's record-high production of 1.29 billion bushels.

The reduction in corn production came despite a 400,000-acre increase in Minnesota's harvested acres of corn in 2011, to 7.7 million acres. Therefore, the reduction in corn production reflected a rather sharp reduction in yields.

Minnesota's average corn yield in 2011 was 156 bushels per acre, down 21 bushels from the previous year's record high of 177 bushels per acre.

Soybean production in Minnesota totaled 270 million bushels, down 18 percent from the 2010 record high of 328.9 million bushels.

The average soybean yield in Minnesota was 38.5 bushels per acre, down 6.5 bushels from the 2010 average of 45 bushels per acre. However, the lower yield was not the only factor resulting in the 18 percent reduction in production. Minnesota's harvested acreage of soybeans in 2011 totaled 7.02 million acres, which was down 290,000 acres from 2010.

Crop insurance deadline Thursday

The deadline for farmers to purchase and finalize a crop insurance plan with their insurance agent is March 15.

As the spring planting season approaches, the threat of drought is real. The National Weather Service recently reported that more than 96 percent of Minnesota was identified as having moderate to severe drought conditions, and more than 99 percent of the state had abnormally dry conditions.

By comparison, only 4 percent of the state was rated as having abnormally dry conditions one year ago.

According to USDA's Risk Management Agency, farmers in deciding to purchase crop insurance should consider how a policy will work in conjunction with their other risk management strategies to ensure the best possible outcome each crop year.

Crop insurance agents and other agri-business specialists can assist farmers in developing a good management plan. A list of crop insurance agents, by county, can be found on the Risk Management Agency's website at

Wes Nelson is executive director of the USDA Farm Service Agency in Kandiyohi County.