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Farmers ‘pleasantly surprised’ with early harvest

Published: Friday, Oct. 4, 2013 10:51 a.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, Oct. 4, 2013 11:24 a.m. CDT

U.S. farmers are on pace for an all-time record high harvest.

While the conditions in Iowa were less than ideal — starting with one of the wettest springs in history followed by drought conditions in July and August — Gavilon Manager Dean Michaelson said farmers in the early stages of harvest have been “pleasantly surprised.”

One of the reasons for the record-setting year is an increase in the number of acres planted.

“The high price of corn the last two or three years encouraged people to plant more acres,” Michaelson said. “We’ve seen a lot of CRP acres turn into row crops.”

So even though the growing conditions did not produce a bumper crop with high yields, the increase in the number of acres will balance out the estimated harvest of 14.15 billion bushels.

Iowa may struggle compared to other states in the Midwest because of the extreme weather conditions, but Michaelson said it will have a minimal effect on the commodity market.

Michaelson said southern states, like Mississippi, switch cottonfields to cornfields to take advantage of the high market prices.

“We may have less to export and the other states may have more grain to ship out,” Michaelson said. “But overall, it will balance out. It may keep our basis a little higher if the total number of bushels is tighter.”

Harvest time

Most area farmers are starting to harvest soybeans that were planted early in the growing season and able to get adequate sunlight.

Some cornfields are also close to harvest, but Tracey Cameron, an agronomist for Gavilon, said most farmers focus on beans first.

Corn prices continued to fall, settling at $4.37 for December delivery on the Chicago Board of Trade Wednesday.

“The beans are mature and tend to dry down quickly to harvest moisture,” Cameron said. “If they leave the beans in the field, they become too dry, and there is a high chance of damage to the seed coat if they plan to hold any seeds back to plant with next year.”

The average ideal moisture level for soybeans is 13 percent. Corn is a little higher at 15 percent.

“Beans are running pretty good right now,” Michaelson said.

Cameron added harvesting too early results in prolonged and costly drying expenses. To maintain a profit, Cameron said farmers have to try to harvest as close to the ideal moisture level as possible.

Soybeans finished at $12.76 for November delivery, making a slight recovery to close out Wednesday.

Michaelson said some beanfields may not be ready for another week or 10 days depending on if the weather cooperates and speeds up the drying process.

Government blackout

While farmers will still be able to work on getting the harvest out, the stalemate in Washington, D.C., may hurt U.S. exports and market prices if a compromised is not reached.

A United States Department of Agriculture press release announced its branch — the National Agricultural Statistics Service — will be unavailable to issue crop and livestock reports while employees are on furlough.

Michaelson said reports include details of the global supply and demand for agriculture commodities.

Without the report, which is set to be released Oct. 11, overseas trade could be adversely effected as markets are left in the dark.

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