WILLMAR - Too much rain and muddy fields are slowing down harvest this fall in west central Minnesota.

Usually by this time, soybean harvest is nearly done and corn harvest is well underway.

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But soybean harvest is just getting started and harvesting corn for grain is a long ways off for most.

"We are slower than normal because we've had so much rain this fall," said Liz Ludwig, Farm Service Agency director for Chippewa and Yellow Medicine counties.

"The crops are ready but the ground isn't ready yet," she said, estimating that 20 to 30 percent of soybeans have been harvested in those two western Minnesota counties so far.

"It's pretty low," Ludwig said, adding that "no one is doing corn" yet.

The trucks coming to the Glacial Plains Cooperative elevator in Murdock this week are hauling "almost exclusively soybeans at this point," said General Manager Tom Traen.

Soybean harvest had a good start last week in their western service area until a Saturday rain dumped an inch of unneeded moisture, Traen said.

Todd Stanghelle, office manager at Allied Grain Company in Blomkest, said farmers in that region barely got started with bean harvest on Monday but were "full force beans" by Wednesday.

"Guys were twiddling their thumbs for a while, but they're ready to go," he said. "It's going to be slow and a long fall."

Typically, soybean harvest would be about 90 percent done by this time, he said.

Aside from harvesting corn for silage or high-moisture corn for animal feed, there is little corn being harvested now, Stanghelle said.

According to the latest U.S. Department of Agriculture crop report, at this time last year, 84 percent of soybeans had been harvested in the state. This year soybeans are only 45 percent harvested.

Last year at this time, 29 percent of corn had been harvested for grain statewide. This year corn is 7 percent harvested.

The USDA report said "muddy field conditions made harvest a challenge in some areas," and harvest is lagging behind the five-year average for all crops except dry edible beans.

Sugar beet harvest is actually ahead of last year and nearly on target for the five-year average, according to the report.

Warm, windy weather this week is exactly what fields need to help dry up the ground so heavy equipment can get into fields without getting stuck, Traen said.

"It's absolutely beautiful weather, so hopefully that'll dry the soil," Ludwig said.

The wet weather has presented additional challenges along with muddy fields.

Traen and Stanghelle said white mold has been reported in some areas, and the moisture content for beans has been higher than it should be.

Traen said because it's getting late and farmers are eager to get soybeans off the field, some beans are being harvested wetter than they should be. He said the cooperative has dried nearly 200,000 bushels of soybeans so far to bring it to the proper moisture level.

Traen also said the small amount of corn he has seen so far is very wet, with moisture levels of 25 to 27 percent - far above the desired 14 to 15 percent.

Early reports also indicate the test weight of corn is lighter than expected, which is an unwelcome surprise, he said.

Ludwig said she's concerned that the lateness of the harvest season could result in farm accidents.

"People get into a rush when they're feeling behind, but it's best to slow down," she said. "I hope everyone has a good, safe harvest."