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Stop 'n' go: Harvest way behind normal pace, USDA says

Agriculture.com Staff 10/19/2009 @ 3:15pm

Monday's USDA-NASS Crop Progress numbers show a trend that many farmers in the Corn Belt can probably vouch for: It's wet, and harvest is already way behind.

As of Sunday, according to this week's Crop Progress report, 17% of the nation's corn crop has been harvested. That's way behind; usually, this week sees the crossing of the halfway point for harvest progress. A few strides were made in the last week in states like Iowa (up to 10% as of Sunday compared to 6% a week ago), but farmers in states like Michigan and Minnesota have yet to even break double-digits (harvest stands at 3% completed in both states, USDA says). (See more from Monday's report).

More soybeans have been harvested so far this fall, but that crop, too, is well behind the normal. Sunday saw bean harvest reach the 30% mark, up 7% in the last week but still way off the normal pace of 72% by this week of the year.

These numbers add up to one of the toughest harvest seasons in years. Some say it's the toughest ever. "Farmers were able to get in the field over the weekend and some harvesting is getting done," Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey said Monday. "The next couple of days of warm and dry weather will be very helpful, but still many are concerned with the forecast of cooler and wetter weather later in the week. We are having one of the most challenging harvests in decades."

But, there's some hope for good progress this week in the weather forecast, at least for the next few days in many parts of corn and soybean country.

"Last week's 'Gulf of Alaska Low' did not hold, but did give the Midwest a break from cold and wet conditions," Iowa State University Extension ag climatologist Elwynn Taylor said Monday morning. "[There is] still some hope for good harvest weather."

For how long? Another wet system's on its way to the Corn Belt, says Charlie Notis of Freese-Notis Weather, Inc., in Des Moines, Iowa. Look for a couple more days in the field before Mother Nature shuts down the combine again, with the system entering the western Corn Belt sometime by Wednesday morning.

"Not until late on Friday is this system out of the western Corn Belt, and does not exit the eastern Corn Belt and Delta until Saturday morning. It should be another solid rain event for basically all of the major corn and soybean growing areas of the Nation, with everyone getting at least a half inch of rain but the vast majority of the locales getting more than an inch and there will be places getting two to three inches," Notis says. "The weekend and the first part of next week will likely not feature much in the way of rain, but I do not view drying conditions in that period as all that good and there will likely be some light showers in especially northern parts of the Corn Belt for late on October 25 to a part of October 26.

"We are getting some crop out of the field as we speak, and there will be another one to two days of fieldwork, but overall we will continue to see the corn and soybean markets concerned about the slow pace of this year's harvest," he adds.

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