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Corn, Soybean Farmers’ Thoughts From the Cab

Iowa, Missouri farmers plug through the 2018 harvest season.

SHENANDOAH, Iowa -- Another round of harvest-delaying rain is scheduled to hit the Midwest this week.

Iowa, one of the leading U.S. soybean producing states, had its slowest ever harvest pace (14%) last week, for this time of the year.

Many other Corn Belt states have suffered harvest delays and crop damage due to October rains.

Rebel Herron, a northwest Missouri corn/soybean farmer, says his soybean harvest season is getting ramped up, after fighting rain events and picking some of his corn crop.

The northwest Missouri farmer says the slow harvest season caps off a challenging growing season, noting the crops were planted timely but impacted by drought conditions in July and August, a critical period.

“After the drought, it got real wet. We’re finding that the late rains helped the soybeans fill out, but it was too late for the corn crop,” Herron says.

With soybean yields averaging 70 bushels per acre, on the bottom-ground he harvested Friday, Herron doesn’t expect all of his fields will perform that high.

“The recent heavy rains in late September and early October did some damage to the crops. “We’ve seen some shattering, and we are losing some beans during harvest.”

Across the state line into southwest Iowa, Troy Nielsen, a corn/soybean farmer has been taking advantage of the recent, drier weather to get caught up on harvest, after being knocked out for two weeks.

“We are behind by about 10% to 15% of normal, but we should be able to catch up if we can get a lot of good weather, here. We can go pretty hard.”

With about 25% of his corn crop out of the field, Nielsen still has 1,500 acres of corn to harvest and another two weeks’ worth of soybeans to cut.

Crop Quality Issues

Herron expects to see discounts at the elevator on the quality of his soybeans, this year.

“We’re just getting rolling on cutting soybeans. But we did see a little dock on our first load to town and then it cleared up. Plus, I’ve heard a lot of talk with others about mold issues, discoloration, and damaged beans in general,” Herron says.

In southwest Iowa, the topic of crop damage has been circulating, but Nielsen has yet to witness it.

“I have heard about it. Some folks have said that they have had some crop quality issues. I have not seen it yet in my fields,” Nielsen says. “I’m grateful for that, because I have seen a lot of pictures on the internet of some horrible looking fields.”

Farmers are trying to battle the weather by switching back and forth from harvesting only parts of their corn for a while and then switching to soybeans.

The corn harvested so far is pretty decent for the extreme northwest Missouri area, Herron says.

“Anywhere that you had a good stand that wasn’t drowned out by spring rains, the corn has done well. But we’ve had some cornstalk stand and stalk quality issues where the plants cannibolized, and there was some kinking over of plants,” the Missouri farmer says.

Storing Soybeans

For this year’s harvest season, storage of the big crops is being highlighted.

A lot of on-farm and commercial storage is expected to reach capacity.

“Due to early contracting, we’re storing our white corn and taking our yellow corn to town,” Herron says. “I think that we are going to try and bin most of our soybeans. We’ve sold some beans, but we will store the rest of them until the market gets better.”

In general, farmers don’t choose to store soybeans. However, this year, the soybean market has carry, meaning it’s offering a better price for next year delivery months vs. off the combine.

“It’s one of those crops that most farmers like to just get rid of because they can be a little finicky in the bins,” Herron says.

So, most farmers usually haul them to the elevator.

“Due to circumstances this year, we’re going to try and do something different,” he says. 

Herron puts soybeans in the bin with 13% moisture and they dry down on their own. You can pull them out of the bin at 11% to 12%, losing some yield. Meanwhile, some farmers put the beans in the bin with 15% moisture and lose yield trying to dry them down.

“This year, with mold in the seed, it could have potential to grow inside the bin,” Herron says.

In Iowa, Nielsen has already harvested some early-planted corn, dried and delivered to a nearby ethanol plant. So that will free up some storage space, he says.

“Regardless, we will have to haul more crops to town. And it looks like this whole area will have storage issues this year,” Nielsen says.

As of late last week, the outside piles of corn were not showing up at the southwest Iowa elevators. That will change when farmers return to picking corn this week.

Farmers on Trump & Trade

While sitting in the combine harvesting, farmers have a lot of time to think about various things. This year is no different. A lot of farmers still ponder the future of the soybean trade tariffs with China.

“I think most farmers think in dollars and cents. So, if it pays off, we’re going to hold on as long as we can,” Herron says. “It’s just a wait-and-see game.”

Herron adds, “There’s no doubt the trade tariffs, all linked to China, have hurt the soybean market. He (President Trump) has put a relief package in place, but it’s not going to make up the difference in what you expect for an average price when you sell soybeans.”

Nielsen remains hopeful that the U.S. trade leaders can turn this issue with China into a positive one.

“It’s taken its toll (on prices) right now. Hopefully, we get everything worked out,” Nielsen says.

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