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Snowy, Wet Spring Delaying SE MN Farmers, Could Hurt Yields

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(credit: CBS) John Lauritsen
John Lauritsen is a reporter from Montevideo, Minn. He joined WCCO-...
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – While it’s only May, some Minnesota farmers are already nervous about this year’s crop outlook.

The weather has pushed planting back by weeks in southeastern Minnesota.

“In Minnesota, it’s been challenging, definitely,” said Dave Nicolai of the University of Minnesota Extension Service. “We are going to be reaching that tipping point with a lot of our growers.”

The cold and snowy April, combined with a wet May has some Minnesota farmers up to three weeks behind schedule. And that will likely mean a decrease in corn yields.

That’s especially true in the Rochester area, where some fields had up to 14 inches of snow on the ground just a few weeks ago. Farmers there are looking at a 15 percent loss in corn yields.

“We generally start field operations in April, and the field operations haven’t started this year until well into May,” Dave Pfarr said.

Pfarr, an agronomist with Pioneer, is also a farmer. Last summer, acres of his own crops near Le Sueur, Minn., were destroyed by storms. And now this spring, Mother Nature has given him — and others — a very small window between the snow and rain to try and get their corn in.

“Some farmers were able to finish depending on the size of the area,” Pfarr said. “Others, like me, were caught halfway through with the corn planting.”

The good news is the rain has at least moved some farmland from drought to adequate soil conditions. But corn planting at the end of May is far from ideal, and has some farmers feeling like they are stuck in the mud.

“We are going to be looking at planting — for the very first time — our corn next week after Memorial Day,” Nicolai said. “That is very late.”

Nicolai said that dairy farmers will likely have to spend more on alfalfa and hay because those crops were also affected by weather.

While southeastern Minnesota remains behind, farmers west of the Twin Cities are on schedule thanks to drier conditions.

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