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Sandy relenting; dry weather ahead

Jeff Caldwell 10/31/2012 @ 9:59am Multimedia Editor for Agriculture.com and Successful Farming magazine.

Hurricane Sandy's starting to run out of gas as she marches inland, and now weather experts say the window's starting to crack open for harvest to resume in the areas of the eastern Corn Belt where days of hurricane-induced rainfall are coming to an end.

Now, farmers are joining the millions of Northeastern residents in taking stock of the damage the storm's left behind.

"Looks like New York farmers fared much better with Sandy than 2011's [Hurricane] Irene," says Julia Robbins, executive director of the New York Corn and Soybean Growers Association. "No major flooding or crop damage has been reported in the southern tier or lower Hudson Valley."

The remnants of the storm that crippled the northeastern U.S. now stretch from about the Indiana-Illinois state border to western Maine, with considerable rain and snow still falling in parts of Ohio, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania, radar shows.

"Rain and snow across the eastern Midwest continue to slow late harvesting of corn and soybeans, while harvesting is progressing well in Central and Western areas," says Don Keeney, senior ag meteorologist with MDA EarthSat Weather. "Harvesting should improve in Eastern areas after today, as showers there ease."

In addition to causing severe damage to New York City, the superstorm also closed down Washington, D.C., and that delayed USDA's weekly Crop Progress report. The report's due out Wednesday afternoon, and is likely to show just how much Sandy interrupted the harvest of the estimated 5 million acres of corn and soybeans remaining in the eastern Corn Belt.

"[The report] will give us a clue as to how much corn and soybeans were still in the fields in Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania when the remnants of Sandy spread rain (and some snow) and strong winds into that area over the past 48 hours or so," says Freese-Notis Weather senior meteorologist Craig Solberg. "As of October 21, the amount of corn to be harvested in those states ranged from a low of 28% (Indiana) to a high of 52% (Michigan). For soybeans, the amount to be harvested ranged from a low of 23% (Michigan) to a high of 37% (Ohio). Using those numbers and using the last USDA corn and soybean production forecasts for those states, one would estimate that about 590 million bushels of corn and about 155 million bushels of soybeans were still in the field in those states as of October 21. With extensive rain seen in that area last week on October 22-23 and October 25-26, it is unlikely that the new progress numbers to be released this afternoon will show that much harvesting got done last week."

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