- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 15, 2014

ST. LOUIS (AP) - Amid growing expectations of record U.S. corn and soybean yields this year, farmers in Illinois and other Midwestern states are struggling to bring the crops in from the fields.

Nagging stormy weather continues to turn the ritual of harvesting into a sputter in much of the nation’s midsection. The U.S. Department of Agriculture said Tuesday that among the 18 states that produce most of the country’s corn, just 24 percent has been brought in. That’s barely more than half the average pace over the past five years and up just 7 percent of over the past week.

Just 35 percent of the Illinois crop has been cut, short of the pace of the previous five years when more than half of the harvest has been done by this time. Some 44 percent of the corn is in in Missouri and 10 percent has been harvested in Iowa, in both states more than 20 percentage points off the traditional pace.

Some 40 percent of the nation’s soybean crop has been cut, at a time when more than half of the job was done most other recent years. Illinois’ soybean harvest was at 29 percent, Iowa 39 percent and Missouri’s 16 percent when for many of those states more than half of the crop would have been brought in by now.

With 5,000 acres he farms with his dad and uncle in central Illinois’ Peoria County, Rob Asbell feels fortunate to have most of his soybeans harvested and roughly half of his corn acreage cleared. But with his muddy fields and prospects of rain not expected to clear out by Thursday, giving way to potentially drier weather, Asbell spent Wednesday waiting.

“It’s been nap time,” said Asbell, 43. “We’d been going pretty hard for a couple of weeks, so a little down time doesn’t hurt. But it’s just too wet to do much of anything. It’ll be muddy and messy out there.”

He isn’t sweating it, acknowledging that some years his harvesting has had him in the fields in mid-December, freeing ice from his combine along the way.

“So far, it just looks like I won’t be on Halloween duty this year,” he said, laughing. “It’s just one of those years.”

Concerns about the sluggish harvest often are tempered by the fact that today’s behemoth combines can make up lost ground. But the recent moisture and cooler-than-normal conditions can drive up the cost of drying the grain and create backlogs at grain elevators as they try to accommodate so many farmers suddenly playing catch up.

Mucky fields also leave harvesting machines vulnerable to getting stuck or cutting deep ruts that could become standing pools of water.

Near southwestern Illinois’ Edwardsville, Mike Campbell says he finished harvesting his 215 acres of corn last week but has been stymied by rain in trying to cut his 400 acres of soybeans.

“We won’t be able to get to the field this week even if it stopped raining today,” Campbell, 65, said while gloomy skies lingered over the region. “We haven’t even started soybeans, but we’ve got plenty of time. “


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