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Southwest Minnesota farmers call harvest maybe best ever

Corn harvest moves along with dry weather in this image captured Friday afternoon east of Lake Ocheda. Here, a grain cart unloads on the go so the combine does not have to stop. (Tim Middagh/Forum News Service)1 / 3
The bins are full and staff at New Vision Co-Op in Brewster, Minn., are now dumping on the ground. Employees Miguel Lavoie (from left) and Joey Edwards are shown with farmer Tim Luing Tuesday afternoon. (Tim Middagh/Forum News Service).2 / 3
Tony Voss and Nikia Chonko combine corn west of Round Lake, Minn., Tuesday afternoon. (Tim Middagh/Forum News Service) 3 / 3

WORTHINGTON — As rain clouds moved in Tuesday, southwest Minnesota farmers like Ron Obermoller of rural Brewster were busy steering their combines through corn fields, inching closer toward the end of the 2016 harvest.

This year's corn and soybean crops are the best most farmers in this region have seen — ever.

Keith Newman, grain division manager at New Vision Cooperative's Brewster headquarters, said farmers are seeing soybean yields of greater than 60 bushels per acre, while corn yields range anywhere from 180 bushels per acre up to 275 bushels per acre. In comparison, University of Minnesota Extension forecasted 2016 average yields of 47 bushels per acre for soybeans and 175 bushels per acre for corn.

"A lot of farmers are indicating it's a lot better than they've ever had — a lot better than what they expected," Newman said of the soybean crop, noting an average yield of 60 to 62 bushels per acre in the area.

Farmers in the region made considerable harvest progress Friday through Monday, as they faced a Tuesday weather forecast calling for a 100 percent chance of rain.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Crop Progress Report issued Monday afternoon, 55 percent of Minnesota's corn for grain was harvested as of Sunday. That is about six days behind where farmers were a year ago, and three days behind the five-year average.

Meanwhile, the USDA put soybean harvest at 95 percent complete as of Sunday in the state — one week behind harvest progress a year ago.

As for Obermoller, he finished soybean harvest a week ago and has about two or three days of corn harvest to go. Though soybean yields were good, he said they were "just a touch under last year."

"Right in this area we missed a couple of August rains," he said.

While soybean yields were a bit below last year, Obermoller reported corn yields are better than a year ago.

"Pretty rare do you find a spot that's under 200 bushel (per acre)," he said. "The monitor will hit 230 at times, but it doesn't stay there very long."

Obermoller said he won't know the average yield until harvest is completed, and with the anticipated rains, he will see delays.

"We don't need the rain," Obermoller said from the cab of his combine Tuesday afternoon. "The ground is wetter than I thought it would be. You have to be careful where you drive — it's back to normal farming."

After three years of drought conditions, the rain that comes now will be good for next year's crop, he added.

By early afternoon Tuesday, it was already sprinkling at Spronk Seed Farm near Edgerton. Even with the rain, Cal Spronk said there's plenty of work to be done on the farm.

"(Rain) don't really stop us from doing things," he said, adding that there is corn drying and soybean seed processing to do when the rain and saturated soil keeps him out of the field.

Spronk said soybean harvest has wrapped up and corn harvest just beginning.

"We're running 17 to 20 percent (moisture) and yields are very good," he reported. "I would ... say best ever, but we're just getting started."

While the numbers aren't finalized yet on his corn crop, Spronk said his soybeans, all of which are grown for seed beans, recorded phenomenal yields.

"Soybeans were at least 10 bushel better than expected. We had whole fields running in the middle to upper 60s," he said, noting that moisture content was right on target.

Both Spronk and Obermoller credit the weather pattern and timely rains this growing season for the bumper crops.

Spronk said rains in the last half of August and early September, when soybean seed size is determined, gave the crop a great boost.

"Genetics get better every year, but I guess I was always taught that 80 percent of our yield is weather," added Obermoller. "All the money we toss into (seed) only accounts for 20 percent. That's why you go to church."

Back at New Vision, farmers have hauled in so much grain from this year's harvest that the cooperative's 3-million-bushel-plus storage capacity is filled.

"We're piling corn on the ground," Newman reported. "We've got, in all of our locations, probably 500,000 bushels on the ground."

Grain will continue to be piled up at outside sites until prices improve.

"It's economically more advantageous for elevators to carry the grain on the ground for a couple of months and then ship it out," Newman said.

Farmers are also storing as much grain on their farms as their bins will hold. Obermoller said corn moisture is right where it needs to be and he isn't doing any drying, but Newman said some farmers are harvesting corn at 16, 18 and 20 percent moisture. That leads to added costs for drying.

At a time of low market prices, any extra costs cut into a farmer's already slim profit margin.

Newman said there has been a nice rally in the last couple of weeks on soybeans, and a bit of a rally on corn.

"That helps out a little bit," he said. "We're still way below the cost of production on corn. We've gotten above $9 on soybeans and farmers can make a little bit of money there."

Spronk said the hope is that farmers have done some smart marketing, and having excess bushels to market will help with profit potential.

"I'm just really thankful for the bountiful crop," he said.

"It's a fun harvest," added Obermoller. "When it's dry and it's big, it's always enjoyable. Even with the low prices, it's still enjoyable."

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