Farmers race to finish plantingPublished 9:58am Friday, May 23, 2014
LE SUEUR — Minnesota farmers are racing to finish corn planting ahead of a key deadline set by the federal crop insurance program.
The late, rainy spring has resulted in muddy fields, slowing down corn planting in Minnesota and some other parts of the Midwest. Each type of grain must be planted by a certain date for farmers to get full insurance benefits if there’s a crop fail later in the year. May 31 is the cutoff date for planting corn for grain for the southern two-thirds of Minnesota, where most of the state’s corn is grown, while it’s Monday for northern Minnesota. Insurance benefits are reduced for corn planted after that.
Le Sueur farmer Bob Braun said his family has planted 780 acres of corn so far, as well as all their peas, but the bulk of their land remains to be planted.
“We went hard from Friday night to Sunday night, but just on our sandy ground,” he said. Heavy rain Monday meant more delays, he said. Some of their land has received nearly 10 inches of rain since April 1.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture says corn planting was 53 percent complete statewide as of Sunday, 28 percentage points behind the five-year average. U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson of Minnesota, the ranking Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee, asked the USDA’s Risk Management Agency this week to push back the deadline for some northwestern counties where fields have been particularly wet. However, the RMA says it doesn’t have the authority to do that.
Besides possibly losing some insurance benefits, late-planted corn can have lower yields. Varieties with longer maturities tend to produce the most. Tony Weis of DuPont Pioneer seed in Mankato said farmers will have to start deciding soon whether to swap their longer-maturing corn seed for seed with shorter maturities.
Braun said he’ll keep planting corn up until June 15. If it goes later than that, they’d plant the rest with soybeans, which mature more quickly.
Braun was Minnesota’s state winner the 2013 National Corn Growers Association Corn Yield Contest. He placed first in the No-Till/Strip-Till Irrigated category with 217.7 bushels per acre. He said the younger relatives in the family farm business are more concerned than he is.
“After you do it 35 years, you see the seasons come and seasons go and we have a roof over our heads and food on the table. I get a little anxious too, but if (planting is) late, it won’t be fatal.”