Minnesota farmers are near finishing spring planting, but it's been a struggle. Rain has delayed work in many parts of the state. Farmers in other states face the same problem and grain traders are starting to worry that the harvest may be affected.
By the beginning of June about 87 percent of Minnesota's corn crop has been planted, behind the average rate of 98 percent planted, reports the U.S. Agriculture Department. Soybeans are even further behind with just over half of the crop seeded, compared to nearly 90 percent in most years.
Heavy rains in parts of the state have slowed field work and left standing water in fields. Jim Schlegel farms in southeast Minnesota, which has seen some of the heaviest rain, and says it has been the wettest spring he's ever seen. That's saying a lot, because Schlegel is 83 years old.
"I'm one of them stubborn farmers that won't quit," he said.
That stubborn streak has come in handy this spring, because even with the terrible weather Schlegel keeps going. He's been able to resume planting this week, but has to closely monitor his tractor so that it doesn't get stuck in the fields.
“If we can keep getting the rains and warmer temperatures there's a very good potential of having a pretty decent crop coming up this fall.”Francis Buschette, retired farmer
"I'm running into pockets it seems like that all at once you're starting to sink," Schlegel said. "And it's just too much water all over the place."
So much water that the hot joke is that farmers are seeing standing water on hillsides, Schlegel said.
But while it's been rainy, not every part of the state has weather problems.
"Actually, if we can keep getting what we've been getting it would be just perfect for us," said Francis Buschette, a retired farmer in Renville County in central Minnesota.
Buschette still keeps a close eye on crop progress in his area, but planting is basically finished there, he said. The region, at least for now, has avoided the heavy rains plaguing other parts of Minnesota, he said.
"If we can keep getting the rains and warmer temperatures there's a very good potential of having a pretty decent crop coming up this fall," Buschette said.
This variable weather pattern is being seen all across the nation's midsection. The wettest fields are in Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin and parts of Illinois. Further east, Indiana and Ohio farmers are seeing near perfect spring planting conditions. On the other hand, portions of Nebraska and Kansas still have extreme or exceptional drought. The uneven start is making grain traders nervous about the size of the fall harvest.
The possibility of reduced supplies is affecting grain prices, said Christian Mayer with Northstar Commodity in Minneapolis.
"Just a few weeks ago the corn price was quite a bit lower," Mayer said. "Now it's starting to work a little bit higher."
Corn prices rose about 10 percent in the last week and a half, Mayer said, mainly because of weather concerns. In some places planted fields are underwater, and may have to be replanted once the water drains. But in areas where the weather has been good, like Minnesota's Renville County, farmers have the prospect of good crops and higher prices to bring them better profits. Buschette said the corn he's seen in recent days is growing nicely.
"Well, I guess it would be 4 or 5 inches tall," Buschette said. "It looked beautiful."
That's a good start, but most of the state is not that far along. Sixty percent of the Minnesota corn crop is rated in good or excellent condition. Last year at this time 84 percent of the crop was judged to be in that category.