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Fields softened early this year, but corn farmers await April 10 to kick off planting season

Christopher Vondracek, Star Tribune on

Published in Business News

With squishy black dirt from a relatively snowless winter, Minnesota farmers could have planted corn crops last month — but didn't.

They wouldn't dare sow seeds before April 10, no matter how early spring arrived; the head start isn't worth it. That's because the latest USDA census puts this as "the earliest possible planting date" for most Minnesota farmers if they want to be covered by federal crop insurance, according to the Minnesota Corn Growers Association.

Those living in the northernmost counties will need to wait until April 21.

Crop insurance, as many farmers will attest, doesn't make a farmer financially whole if a crop is partially lost in bad weather or market conditions. But the extra revenue can provide peace of mind and help pay down the costs of inputs, such as fertilizer or fuel or seed.

And farmers will take every penny this coming year.

In November, the Minneapolis Federal Reserve reported out increasing pessimism among farm country lenders, revealing a 35% year-over-year decrease in farmers' spending on machinery and property upgrades. Just last week, a much-watched survey on farm income revealed farm profits last year fell about 76% — from nearly $180,000 in 2022 to just over $44,000.

 

The common driver? Commodity prices are in the gutter. Corn on the Chicago Board of Trade dropped to $4.30 a bushel at latest read midday Tuesday. It's a precipitous drop from two years ago when corn flirted with $8. To add further dismay, last year, Brazil overtook American farmers as the top corn-producing nation in the world.

That's why favorable growing conditions this spring feel like a godsend to some growers.

Nick Peterson, a corn farmer from near Clear Lake in Sherburne County, Minnesota, is eyeing late April for planting.

Peterson said farmers are really starting to watch the sky for weather and check their soil for moisture.

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