A long and difficult grain farming season may be coming to an end and it may not be a happy ending.
As a general rule, the natural drying season for corn in Minnesota comes around Nov. 1, according to Farmers Elevator manager Jon Stueve.
If corn is 25% or above in moisture content farmers do not want to pay for the cost of drying it down to 15%. Right now, Stueve is seeing corn in the 23 to 30% range.
“It’s a lot higher than normal,” Stueve said.
So the higher moisture corn stands in very large and impressive fields of brown stalks with brown husks protecting the yellow cobs. In some areas a person quickly gets the feeling they are in the middle of a cornfield.
“I don’t think we’re at 10% yet,” Elbow Lake grain manager Al Mashek said Thursday as he reviewed the corn harvest situation. Mashek recalls that at this point in 2018 about half the corn harvesting was finished.
When farmers were trying to decide what and how much to plant in local fields early in the year, they had to surrender most of April to Old Man Winter. The bitter winter of 2018-19 had locked their planting ground with frost.
In addition to the late spring, disappointing crop prices left grain farmers with only two choices – soybeans and corn – and both of the choices left a lot to be desired. The Trump administration’s trade war with China had cut deeply into the soybean market that only a few years ago had sent prices soaring. Corn was the best alternative to soybeans but poor prices meant grain farmers had to gamble on a good yield.
In addition to being saddled with a late planting season Minnesota has wrestled with a very wet one. The second weekend of October saw a heavy, wet snowfall. Farmers down in the Wendell area and up around Crookston have been very hard pressed by the surplus of moisture, according to Stueve. Many farmers in southwestern Minnesota were in the fields Wednesday but in the local area, there were not many wheels turning. The reason for that? The local soybean harvest is almost wrapped up. By using tracked implements, dodging mudholes and working long hours farmers in the Fergus Falls area have a lot of beans in the bin.
“About 90 to 95% of the soybeans are harvested,” Mashek said.
The problem now is bringing in the corn crop. Grain farmers who want to sell or store low moisture corn must play a waiting game. The need is for an extended period of warm, dry weather but what the local weather forecast is promising for the first full week of November is cold, dry weather. Combines and trucks might be able to ride better on frozen turf but that will not guarantee a lower moisture content.
Stueve said he will not be surprised to see more cornfields left standing this winter.
“I think we’ll see more than normal,” Stueve said.
Mashek, like many farmers, still has hope that a decent chunk of the corn crop will be harvested because the moisture content of the corn has been dropping.
“It’s starting to come down,” Mashek said.
Farmers in nearby states are also having trouble. While some are 10 days to two weeks behind, others claim they are a month behind. South Dakota still has roughly 65% of its soybeans in the field according to the United States Department of Agriculture Statistics Service. The corn harvest is an abysmal 9%. The corn harvest is an abysmal nine percent. North Dakota farmers are also struggling. Many are looking for a slow start to the 2020 planting season if they cannot get their 2019 crops out.
The situation for many farmers over the three-state area is serious and Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz stepped in Wednesday to help western Minnesota by lifting regulations on trucks and drivers who deliver liquid fuels and propane.
After meeting with about 50 farmers and ag leaders in East Grand Forks, Walz issued an executive order allowing longer hours for truckers who transport all types of fuel to western Minnesota. The direct assistance is expected to help farmers and suppliers in the emergency.