DRIFTLESS - The fall harvest took off this week at a breakneck pace amid fair skies and moderate temperatures.
The USDA’s Wisconsin Crop Progress & Condition report indicated that statewide the corn for grain harvest was 31 percent complete–11 days ahead of last year and three days ahead of the average. The moisture of corn harvested for grain was 21 percent–meaning it would have to be dried to 14 percent for storage.
The USDA report indicated that the Southwest Wisconsin corn harvest was similar to the state with 32 percent completed by Sunday, October 21.
Locally, farmers and those that work with them were reporting similar information.
JoAnn Cooley, the USDA Executive County Director for Crawford and Richland counties, guessed the local area would be about 25 to 33 percent done with the harvest by the end of the week.
Cooley explained that while the spring planting experienced some delays due to wet weather, the increased amount of heat units in the summer had allowed the corn to mature early.
The local USDA official noted that many local farmers were in the process of switching from the corn harvest to the soybean harvest because the latter crop had now matured.
“I think a lot of people are stopping their corn harvest and going to beans because the beans are ready,” Cooley said on Monday. “Snow affects beans a lot more than in does corn.”
Swede Knutson, a Ferryville area farmer, reported he was half done with his soybean harvest on Monday. He had only done a little bit of corn harvesting earlier and the moisture level was high.
Tammy Olson said Olson Feeds in Seneca was receiving a steady stream of corn, but growers were switching to soybeans because they had matured.
“The corn harvest is better than we thought it might be,” Olson said. “We’re seeing the moisture in the 17 to 22 percent range.”
Olson said they had also been impressed with test weights that ranged from 50 to 57 pounds per bushel. For retail and commodity purposes the standard for corn is 56 pounds per bushel.
Olson noted that the feed store was not receiving corn that would slow down the drying process because of high moisture.
“We’re drying 1,100 bushels an hour,” she said. “We can do more, but we’re keeping up.”
While Olson Feeds doesn’t buy soybeans, they do moisture test them for growers. The moisture content is testing about 14 to 14.5. The optimal moisture for soybean storage is the 12 to 13 range.
Daryl Aspenson, a Mt. Sterling area farmer, seemed happy with harvest this year.
Aspenson estimated their soybean harvest was about one third completed by Monday. He also noted the moisture was running about 13 percent.
“The wind is drying the beans and the corn,” Aspenson said. “Wind is not a negative at this time of year.”
The local farmer had harvested about 200 acres of corn before switching to soybean harvest. He said the moisture was 22 percent, but believes the moisture content of the corn would now be 20 percent or less.
Aspenson was also very happy with the corn yield, which is running 200 bushels to the acre in the early going.
Adam Hady, the UW-Extension Ag Agent for Richland County, confirmed the harvest was in full swing this week for a lot of people.
“The yield seems decent,” Hady said. “It’s above average.
“Many people are starting to harvest soybeans and letting the corn dry down more,” Hady noted.
“The wind has dried everything down,” the ag agent explained. “Some growers might be worried that there could be shattering in the beans, if they’re not taken now.”
While things on the harvest front seem to be going well, the prices for the commodities are not doing very well.
Olson said the price for corn on Monday was $3.13/bu. And soybeans were $7.68/bu. for October and 7.83/bu. for November.
Aspenson and Knutson seemed to shrug off the lower prices. Both men have seen higher and lower prices come and go over the years.
Aspenson has some hope that the U.S. trade dispute with China may be resolved at some point in the near future, causing the soybean price to rebound. He noted that China typically buys about one third of the U.S. soybean production.
U.S. soybean producers will get 1.65/bu. subsidy on half their crop as a result of the trade war with China. That subsidy should get the price back to near where it was, when China targeted U.S. agricultural products in response to the Trump administration’s tariffs on some Chinese manufactured goods.
Both Aspenson and Knutson confirmed that they had previously forward contracted part of their soybean crops at $10/bu.
While higher prices would help the agriculture sector, that doesn’t seem to be something that will be happening in the near future.
With the prices for the commodities hanging near the price of production, making money has a lot to do with risk management, ag agent Adam Hady explained.
“At this point good management will make money and poor management won’t,” Hady said.
Lots of factors can determine profitability at this price level, according to Hady. Some of those factors include the cost of land rent, machinery costs, even proper scouting for pest problems–among many other things.
While prices may not be right, a good harvest can only help in many ways.
Cooley, Olson and others also hoped that farmers get rest and stay safe in the busy harvest season.