WILLMAR, Minn. — Rain and mud prevented crops from being planted on time this spring and now it looks like recent heavy rains — and more mud — will interfere with harvest in west-central Minnesota.
“Harvest is going to be a struggle,” said Tom Anderson, executive director of the Farm Service Agency in Swift County.
Anderson said there’s been so much rain recently that farmers have “lost track” of the total inches.
More rain is in the forecast, and it’s the last thing farmers want to see.
What’s needed is heat and time to get crops, like corn and soybeans, to full maturity.
“We just definitely need some growing degree units,” said Steve Frericks, acting executive director of the Kandiyohi County FSA office in Willmar. “We need some heat to push the crop along.”
The wet conditions are causing problems for farmers across the state.
According to the most recent state crop report, wet and cool weather allowed for only 1.6 days suitable for fieldwork during the week that ended Sept. 15.
About 59% of the corn is dented, which is 16 days behind last year and two weeks behind normal. About 10% of silage corn is completed, which was 12 days behind normal.
In Kandiyohi County, corn maturity is “all over the board,” said Frericks.
“The early stuff looks pretty good,” he said, indicating that most of the corn in the county is dented, but not all of it. “We’re going to need every day of fall we can get.”
Chopping corn for silage at the large dairy farms has begun in some places but will likely be slow because of the rain, Frericks said.
The state report indicates soybean maturity is 10 days behind last year and eight days behind normal.
Anderson said some farmers in Swift County have been reporting white mold showing up in soybeans in the past couple weeks, which will affect yields.
Harvest began Tuesday, Sept. 17, for some producers who grow sugar beets for the Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative in Renville, but rain brought that to a quick stop and farmers were unable to lift beets Wednesday, said Steve Domm, CEO of the cooperative.
“Rain this time of the year is not our friend and it makes harvest virtually impossible,” he said. “But our producers are resilient and they always find a way to get the beets to town.”
Domm said the sugar beet crop had “progressed nicely” during the growing season but said yields and sugar content will be “suppressed” compared to previous harvests.
Time will tell how the weather will affect yields and the quality of other crops.
Hail a couple of weeks ago in areas including northern Kandiyohi County dealt another nasty blow to crops, with shredded leaves on corn, soybeans and sugar beets.
Hail also damaged pods of dry edible beans, which are about 10 days behind the normal statewide harvest date.
According to the state report, topsoil moisture is 55 percent adequate and 42 percent surplus.
The excessive moisture means there will be mud on the roads once harvest gets underway at full steam.
“Be patient with the farmers because they’re doing what they can,” Frericks said.
The weather troubles, compounded with low commodity prices and likely lower yields, will not be easy for Minnesota farmers, said Frericks, who said the state is trying to get the word out that help is available for farmers experiencing stress.
“If farmers need help, they should reach out and get it,” he said.
The state Legislature approved funding to hire a second mental health counselor to help farmers dealing with financial and emotional stress from several years of declining ag profits. Once the new counselor begins Oct. 1, there will be two individuals dedicated for that purpose.
The Minnesota Farm & Rural Helpline is available 24/7 and can be reached at 833-600-2670, ext. 1.
Ted Matthews, the current rural mental health counselor, can be reached at 320-266-2390.