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Combines roll, crops improve -- USDA

Jeff Caldwell 09/23/2013 @ 4:03pm Multimedia Editor for Agriculture.com and Successful Farming magazine.

Combines are starting to churn up dust around the country, but just like other steps in the progress of this year's crop, it's started off on a slower note compared to the last few years, according to Monday's USDA-NASS Crop Progress report.

As of Sunday, 7% of the corn crop's out of the field, versus the 16% average completion rate by this week. Last year at this time, farmers had 37% of the crop harvested. Soybean harvest got rolling in earnest in the last week too, with farmers having taken in 3% of this year's crop versus the previous average of 9% for this week. Last year, farmers had harvested 21% of the soybean crop.

Though the growing season's winding down in far-from-ideal conditions for both corn and soybean crops, some farmers have so far found yields higher than they expected. And now, as more farmers start to get into the field -- incentivized by high cash basis levels and discounts on drying costs at commercial terminals -- the pace will likely continue to pick up through this week, especially with a favorable harvest weather outlook.

Ray Jenkins expected a pretty busy day around the Cargill facility in Eddyville, Iowa, where he's senior grain merchandiser. By 8:00 AM Monday, 80 trucks had already unloaded wet corn, and Jenkins expected as many as 350 trucks of new-crop corn across the facility's scales Monday.

"This is the first big harvest in a while and there is going to be a lot of wet corn to handle. With dry corn at a premium, we may be reduced to some pretty short hours each day, as we can get 325 trucks in here in only 7+ hours, and if all of that is wet, then we are open two short days and either closed the third day or only open about half that amount of time," Jenkins said Monday.

That's all wet corn, though. Corn at 28% moisture or more is flowing into the Eddyville facility, Jenkins says. It's not quite that wet near Madrid, Iowa, where Kelley Kokemiller's been picking corn for the last week. His corn moisture levels have been running around 20% to 24%, and thus far, things have been a pleasant surprise.

"Yields have been pretty good, ranging 180-200 dry land corn averaging 24% moisture," Kokemiller says. "Although we are seeing low test weights on 102-day corn, overall it's a 180-degree difference from last year and we are excited to see how the rest of the season turns out."

Three farmers in the vicinity of the Dallas Center, Iowa, branch of Heartland Co-op were running Monday, and the facility's manager Denny Myers confirms both corn moisture levels in the low 20s and farmers' efforts to get the combines rolling to cash in on 60-cent cash basis levels in the area. But, there's also a weather issue with which some farmers are having to contend.

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