2014 a tough year for corn, soybean farmers in Midwest

Farm Forum

While most farmers in the Midwest will harvest record yields, southern Minnesota corn and soybean growers expect this fall to look a lot like last fall.

On Aug. 12, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said the country’s farmers will harvest 14.03 billion bushels of corn and 3.82 billion bushels of soybeans, both the largest on record. In addition, the agriculture department predicted average yields for the commodities of 167.4 bushels per acre for corn and 45.4 bushels per acre for soybeans. Both are expected to be all-time highs. In strong farming states, like Nebraska and Illinois, where the warm weather has allowed farmers to harvest soybeans, yields have been more than 70 bushels per acre.

Bruce Schmoll, who farms in Dodge County and sits on the Minnesota State Soybean Growers Association board, said southern Minnesota fields will likely only get about 50 bushels per acre. In fact, 2013 might beat 2014, even though on May 2, 2013, the area got hit with record amounts of snow (18 inches in Blooming Prairie) and constant wet May weather meant many farmers didn’t plant until June and some didn’t plant at all. Even with last year’s slow start, Schmoll thinks 2013 might still win out. Most farmers got 53 to 55 bushels per acre on soybeans in 2013.

“Yeah, we’ve had two abnormal years for growing soybeans around here, and last year we planted a week later than this year,” Schmoll said. “But last year we had a long growing season into the fall. Last year there was no early frost which allowed beans to reach maturity.”

Along with the Sept. 13 frost that hit southern Minnesota, Chatfield-area soybean grower Charles Kohlmeyer said area farmers had to deal with cool summer temperatures and cloudy skies. He said he doesn’t remember any 90-degree days and only five days in which the sun shined all day.

“It was a very, very cloudy summer with no wind. Corn, beans, oats, hay, I don’t care what it is, it’s hard to dry without sunlight,” Kohlmeyer said. “We’ve had the normal heat units, but we haven’t had the sun, and I think that’s why harvesting is a little bit behind.”

Dodge County farmer Jeff Tank was able to get into his soybean fields this week and so far, so good, but no record yields, like some other parts of the country.

“Well, we haven’t had a field under 50 (bushels per acre) yet,” he said. “It looks like they will all be around 50, which is an average yield for us. They are not above average.”

Once Tank gets his soybeans out, he will start harvesting his corn. While driving around southern Minnesota, he has seen some good corn and some rough corn.

“It’s very spotty from what I’ve seen,” he said. “I’m pretty worried about quality this year. Test weights are looking like they are going to be down. I think that frost hurt us more than we thought. I think quality issues are going to take 10 to 20 bushels off the top that maybe we would have had if we would have had some warmer weather to finish off the crop.”