Crops growing slowly, but expected to catch upby Mark Steil, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — The growth of most Minnesota crops are at least a couple of weeks behind where they should be for this time of year, said officials with the U.S. Agriculture Department.
The average corn height for current crops measures 16 inches. Typically, the height of crops in the last week of June is about 29 inches.
The lagging growth rates raises concerns about the state's $10 billion harvest. But grain traders think the worst of the bad weather may be over, and that things aren't as gloomy as many farmers think.
Crop consultant Jared Anez of AnezConsulting in Willmar said a cool spring and heavy rains have hurt growth. He said in the last month some areas south and east of Willmar have had more than a foot of rain, drowning out some fields.
"We know it's going to be tough to come out with a huge year, of consistently high yields," Anez said. "But we're still optimistic that we can do it, if we can keep the frost away."
The Minnesota crop problems are part of a national pattern. But bad spring weather is giving way to more optimal growing conditions.
Many states had too much rain, however. That slow start led to concerns about short supplies, sending grain prices higher. Corn reached an all-time record of about $8 a bushel this month.
In the last couple of weeks, the trend has reversed. Russia has resumed exports, experiencing a much better crop than that of a year ago, grain analyst Brian Rocah said. Last year, severe drought cut wheat production so drastically that Russia stopped exporting the grain.
"They're going to be very willing, with large supplies, to price wheat far below where we can," Roach said.
The Russian sales have helped send wheat prices sharply lower, off 25 percent in the last month.
The effects of downturn in the wheat markets spilled over to other markets, dragging all grains lower. Corn prices declined about 17 percent in June.
Weather also contributed to the slump, especially for corn. After a cold wet spring, the predicted return of summertime warmth this week holds the chance that fields in Minnesota and across the Midwest could still catch up. If so, it could mean a bumper crop this fall. The possibility of higher corn supplies has helped push prices down, Roach said. "You put a couple weeks of hot, good sun, on those kind of crops and they come around real, real, real quick," he said.
Later this week, the USDA will release an estimate of the number of acres of corn U.S. farmers actually planted this year. Roach said that closely-watched report could also affect grain prices, if the number of acres planted is significantly different than what traders are expecting.
- Morning Edition, 06/28/2011, 7:46 a.m.