With a generous harvest about to unfold, farmers again face the perennial question: will there be enough storage capacity?
An early August projection of a 197 bushels per acre state average yield for the 2020 Minnesota corn crop created mountains of “coffee shop” chatter. With combines about ready to crank up, even coffee shop conservatives are chattering, “By gum, that 197 yield is going to happen.”
Minnesota Corn Growers Association Board Member Harold Welle of Cannon Falls, Minn. shared a comment on Aug. 20 which likely fits most Minnesota corn producers: “It certainly looks good at this point.”
Welle points out lots of grain has been moving off farms recently to make ready for the big harvest. “We’ve got all our bins cleaned out. Most of my neighbors have been hauling corn. We should have storage. We’ve built a new bin and receiving system on our own farm. It looks great and should be ready to go. However, our electrical contractor right now has a problem getting some key parts. And like most of us farmers, I’m saying ‘Here we go again!’ Any construction project seems to drag on later than you want it to.”
“It looks like an early start — way earlier than last year. On some of our early corn, the husks are turning brown. And with all this sunshine, plus good rainfall patterns, we’re heading for early maturity and good test weights too. Those corn plants couldn’t ask for better growing conditions this year.”
Yes, Welle, like other corn growers, pays attention to markets — especially export markets. And he’s well-tuned to China’s recent significant purchases of U.S. agricultural products. But his seasoned eye is cautious. “So many of our export potentials come with political issues attached; and that certainly is the case with China. Consider their dominance in the South China Sea; their ongoing issues with Hong Kong. I understand China is rebuilding their hog industry which was the world’s largest. But now they apparently have problems within their own farming sector. I wish my crystal ball was a little clearer — suggesting a continual need for U.S. corn and soybeans to feed their rejuvenated hog industry.”
Minnesota corn and soybean farmers are aware of the tremendous storm damage across central Iowa. Welle acknowledges the derecho might have produced some ‘market bumps’ in Minnesota commodities. But he also cautions, “You know if there’s corn in those fields, those Iowa farmers are going to harvest what they can. It’s going to be a terrible mess for those guys; but they too have lots of resolve. Total field loss remains to be seen … but will it be a major market mover? I don’t think so,” summed up this Watonwan county veteran crop farmer.
Minnesota Corn Growers President Les Anderson, living in Goodhue County, had this to say: “Yes, storage is likely to be tight because we’re harvesting a mighty big crop.”
But Anderson also noted that because of strong basis earlier this season, a lot of grain has moved to market. “The river is carrying lots of grain downstream to New Orleans and that’s important for our export market. Rail traffic is strong. China is back in the market and that’s a good sign for America’s farmers too.”
Summed up Anderson, “Storage will be tight like always. Yes, farmers and elevators keep expanding their own capacities. This earlier harvest will help. But I think it important to understand that a big crop is always a good problem to have. We producers are known for being flexible. Some of that may be needed such as shed storage in empty machine shed space.”
Like all corn producers Anderson hesitates to predict yields on his 600 acres of corn and 500 acres of soybeans. But he’s comfortable about 200-plus bushels per acre on his best corn ground. “Compared with last year, I think most all producers will be okay with their 2020 cropping season. And with China seemingly in a buying mood these days — plus both Mexico and Canada now steady customers, I’m okay about the trend line these days.”