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Later than almost ever, Minnesota farmers hustle to get crops into rain-soaked fields

Adam Belz, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) on

Published in Business News

DUNDAS, Minn. -- Brent Fuchs raced all day Saturday through to the early hours of Sunday planting corn. Last night, he stayed up late again, hoping to get his last 250 acres of soybeans in the ground before rain arrived today.

Farmers across Minnesota are rushing this week to get the last of their corn and soybeans in the ground after a cold, wet spring delayed planting past Memorial Day and into June, busting their plans and threatening to reduce growing times.

As of Sunday, 20% of the soybean crop and 8% of the corn crop in Minnesota were yet to be planted, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That's way behind the average of the last five years; statistically, Minnesota farmers two weeks ago should have been where they are now.

Harvests are sure to be reduced as a result, and so may farmers' crop insurance coverage.

For Fuchs, this has been the latest planting in his 21 years as a farmer. Two weeks ago, he hadn't even started. "I don't remember a year where on Memorial Day weekend we had nothing planted," he said.

He and his neighbor Larry Salaba are helping each other by sharing the workload -- one tills the fields ahead of the other, who runs a tractor pulling a planter on the freshly-prepared ground.

 

Salaba was planting on Monday morning on a field west of Dundas while Fuchs stood on the edge of the field, scooped a handful of dirt clods into his hand and squeezed. Blessedly, the clods broke apart in his hand.

"Two weeks ago, it would have been like a ribbon," said Fuchs, explaining how the dirt responds to being squeezed when it's still too wet. "This is not what I'd call an ideal seed bed, but it's too late to wait for the perfect field."

The week ending June 9 was good for farmers in other parts of the Midwest, where farmers were able to quickly make up lost ground. The corn crop in Indiana went from 31% planted to 100% planted in one week. The progress was similar in Ohio, Illinois and Michigan, where farmers had been even farther behind schedule than in Minnesota.

Just over half of the corn acreage in the 18 major corn-producing states was planted after May 25, according to the USDA, compared with the average of 16.8% from 1986 through 2018

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