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Sandy throws the brakes on harvest -- USDA

Jeff Caldwell 10/31/2012 @ 3:48pm Agricultural content creator and marketer.

Though farmers are still generally well ahead of the normal harvest pace, Mother Nature really threw on the brakes in the last week, bringing progress to a crawl as several key states hover just shy of the finish line.

Wednesday's USDA-NASS Crop Progress report -- delayed two days on account of Hurricane Sandy, which forced the closure of the federal government Monday -- shows 91% of the nation's corn crop is out of the field, 31% above the normal pace but just 4% above last week. Farmers in states like Minnesota, Missouri, Kansas, and Iowa are within 5% of completion and should get the chance to knock out much of those fields remaining in the next week as the weather turns drier in many areas that have seen some of the biggest rainfall delays in the last few days.

The pace wasn't quite as sluggish for soybean farmers in the last week; 87% of that crop is harvested compared to 80% a week ago. But the pace isn't near as brisk overall; usually by this week, 78% of the nation's bean crop is in the bin.

"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," Don Keeney, senior ag meteorologist with MDA EarthSat Weather, said on Wednesday. "Harvesting should improve in Eastern areas after today, as showers there ease."

Adds Wednesday's Commodity Weather Group report: "Drier weather will return for much of the next 10 days. A few weekend showers are possible near the Ohio River, but most areas now have the chance to see better conditions for late fieldwork until the 11- to 15-day [timeframe] in the Midwest/Delta."

Though the overall trend toward dryness will be welcomed by many, it may not be enough to allow a lot of progress yet, especially in those areas that have received excessive moisture in the last few days as Hurricane Sandy has moved west.

"Almost 2 inches of wet snow last night here in central Ohio. Corn seems to be standing OK, beans are leaning toward the south. We are currently only 2 inches shy of our yearly rain average," Agriculture.com Marketing Talk veteran contributor docharing said Tuesday. "Over 6 inches of rain in October. The drought here is broken, and mud is now our concern. Very little drying at this time of year; may have to wait until a deep freeze to get back in the fields."

And, conditions like these -- which have slowed the harvest of an estimated 5 million acres of corn and soybeans left in the field in the eastern Corn Belt -- could have longer-term effects to the marketplace, adds Marketing Talk senior contributor roaringtiger1.

"There are lots of acres of corn and beans to harvest yet. I mudded some corn out yesterday, just to have some grain to put in my last completely empty bin. I wanted to get some weight in it to help hold it down in the nasty wind," he said Tuesday. "Before this storm, many fields were too wet to harvest. This may take a freeze now to finish this thing out. We were in the same boat last year on harvest... Just can't believe that we would be here two years in a row. Basis at a local ethanol plant is +38. This could get interesting later on."

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