Midwest Deluge Frustrates Farmers at Harvest Time

(Bloomberg) -- U.S. Midwest corn and soybean farmers banking on bumper crops to offset low prices are nervously waiting for rain to ease so they can finish harvesting.

“It’s been quite a stretch of wet weather,” Mark Recker, chairman of the Iowa Corn Growers Association, said Friday as he headed to a meeting, with downpours keeping him from the harvest. More rain forecast for much of the area may keep him out of his fields for several more days. “It’s very stressful.”

With just a couple of good harvest days, Recker gathered up as much as a fifth of the soybeans he’s growing on 700 acres. All of his 800 acres of corn remains in the field. Prospects for an early harvest seemed high just a month ago but the downpour since late September has barely let up and his area may get several more inches next week.

“The rains have been such large amounts over a short period of time,” Recker said by telephone. “We haven’t dried from one rain to the next.”

He’s not alone. Some farmers face flooding with rainfall expected across northwestern areas through the weekend and much of next week, John Dee, owner of Global Weather Monitoring in Mohawk, Michigan, said in a report Friday. The heaviest is expected over the weekend in Kansas, Iowa, Wisconsin, Missouri and Illinois, with showers lingering late into next week in western areas of the Midwest region, according to the Commodity Weather Group.

Midwest Deluge Frustrates Farmers at Harvest Time

So far, yields are still good, even at records in many areas. But the wet weather across the biggest corn- and soybean-producing states could present problems.

First, farmers can’t harvest much or at all when it’s raining. Second, continued moisture can deteriorate stalk quality for corn and harm soybean pods. The risk of losses rises the longer the rain lasts with less sunshine to dry out crops.

“Heavy rains are on the way for the U.S. plains and corn belt, likely taking corn and soybean harvest and winter wheat planting from ahead of normal to below,” Arlan Suderman, the chief commodities economist for INTL FCStone in Kansas City, Missouri, said in a report Friday.

Corn and soybean harvesting in the week through Sept. 30 was ahead of the five-year average, although the gap for the oilseed narrowed, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Midwest Deluge Frustrates Farmers at Harvest Time

The unexpected delays have helped prices recover. Corn futures for December delivery reached a one-month high Friday and posted the biggest weekly gain since July. Soybeans for November delivery reached a six-week high.

The USDA is scheduled to update its monthly production forecast through its World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates on Oct. 11. Corn and soybean inventories are expected to come in higher than last month’s projections, according to estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

The wet weather and slower harvest isn’t “expected to put even a minor dent in what is becoming an increasingly problematic supply-side situation,” Suderman said.

For growers facing rain delays, that presents a double blow. Illinois soybean and corn farmer Daryl Cates has been counting on strong yields to counter lower prices from the big supplies and softer demand due to the trade war with China.

On Friday, Cates finished his corn harvest, losing more than a week to the rain. Now, with much of his soybean crop still in the field, he worries how any potential rain-related losses might change his profit equation. Weather forecasts Friday lowered the chance of rain over the weekend for his area and Cates is hoping for clear skies.

“Hopefully, this storm doesn’t mess it up,” he said.

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