Weather delays grain corn harvest, prices remain low | TheFencePost.com

Weather delays grain corn harvest, prices remain low

Bridgett Weaver

Driving through the country this time of year, you might normally see fields of corn hacked off at the base, but harvest is running late this year.

Because of late planting driven by a wet spring, producers are fighting through early winter storms to finish the grain corn harvest.

"The problem is, the later you get into the fall season, the more chances you get of having a storm, which makes it more difficult," said Kent Peppler, a Mead-area producer. "The combination of moisture and wind can also hurt the corn."

Many local producers were worried about the wind with the threat of a blizzard looming over Weld County early this week, but they seem to have dodged it. The storm brought strong winds but no snow, and the winds didn't seem to be enough to ruin many crops, despite bending some stalks.

"Everything we've seen is standing fine," local producer Harry Strohauer said on Tuesday morning. Strohauer is a LaSalle-area producer. Corn will survive the snow, he said, but if the wind is strong enough to break the stalk off at the base, it's a different story.

Even so, the rain and snow during the past few weeks caused some harvesting delays. Corn has to be under a certain percentage of moisture to harvest and store safely.

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Peppler said he's been having trouble getting into his fields to start combining this year.

"The moisture in the corn and the weather this year has caused for a later maturing corn crop, so it hasn't dried down," he said. "We were late in getting our crops in, and we might be paying for it a little on this end."

Corn producers in Weld County remain thankful for the long, gentle fall season that allowed them to get a jump on the harvest.

About 83 percent of the state's grain corn was harvested as of Nov. 15, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Agriculture Statistics Service.

Last year at the same time, 84 percent had been harvested, and in 2013, harvest was 95 percent finished. Corn was 99 percent harvested at this time in 2012.

There were no other issues with the crop this year. Peppler said there was plenty of water, of course, and no major threat of disease.

Strohauer still has about 300 acres of corn to get out of the fields, but he said he has time.

"We're just not ready to combine some of the last corn. We've got time to get it," he said. "It was just a few years ago that we didn't get it all (harvested) until right before Christmas."

Because of all of the foreseen issues in harvest this fall and getting corn seeds into the field this spring, some producers opted to plant other crops.

Longmont-area farmer Artie Elmquist is one of those farmers.

"Because of the spring rains I planted Sudangrass instead," he said. Sudangrass can also be used in cow feed.

The longer-than-average fall allowed producers to harvest other crops, while allowing the late-planted corn to fully mature, which led to good yields.

"We are extremely, extremely lucky we had such a long fall or we would have been in a lot of trouble," Strohauer said.

Strohauer hopes to get back out in the fields later this week.

"We're still in the mode of trying to get the corn to dry down a little more," he said. "The forecast isn't showing any other storms. It's possible we'll be out at the end of the week." ❖

Low prices, good yields

One other looming problem in the world of a Weld County producer is the low commodity price this year.

“It’s the pits,” said Harry Strohauer, a LaSalle-area producer.

Stephan Koontz, a Colorado State University Extension economist, said the prices aren’t as low as they were back in 2007, but they’ve dropped significantly over the last two or three years.

Corn is wavering right around the $4-per-bushel mark, which is right at or below the break-even price for many farms.

Koontz said the good yields are playing into the low prices.

“We’re back to having plentiful supplies and relatively low prices,” he said, noting farmers will feel a cash-flow squeeze.

Of course, that’s not always the case. Those producers who had contracts before the year began could see a different story.

“It really depends on the producer and if they were selling at harvest,” Koontz said. “If they were selling at harvest, they maybe were breaking even.”

Strohauer had contracts that he said will carry him, but it’s still not a great year for price.

“What we’ve contracted is going out at a decent price,” he said. “But we do need to see a pop in corn prices.”

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Past five years

The numbers below show that harvest is running behind this year. By the third week of November, over the last five years, the harvest has been an average of 91 percent finished.

» 2015 — 83 percent

» 2014 — 84 percent

» 2013 — 95 percent

» 2012 — 99 percent

» 2011 — 91 percent

» 2010 — 96 percent

Source: USDA NASS reports