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Published October 28, 2009, 08:14 AM

HARVEST: Soybeans slow going; sugar beets progressing with rain delays

Only 28 percent of North Dakota soybeans and 44 percent of Minnesota soybeans are harvested, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

By: Jon Knutson, The Forum

FARGO

Soybeans are known as the “wonder crop” because they’re put to many different uses.

Now, area farmers wonder whether they’ll be able to finish harvesting their rain-drenched soybeans.

Only 28 percent of North Dakota soybeans and 44 percent of Minnesota soybeans are harvested, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The bean harvest, normally wrapped up in North Dakota and western Minnesota by late October, is slowed by weeks of rain.

Soybeans grow in pods close to the ground, and mud makes the crop much harder to harvest.

Dennis Feiken, a LaMoure, N.D., farmer, is combining soybeans this week, even though the moisture content of the bean is so high that he’s paying costly drying fees.

“Maybe I’m crazy for being out here (in the combine), but it’s so late that I don’t think I can wait,” said Feiken, who’s harvested only 30 percent of his soybeans.

Because beans are close to the ground, an early snow could make them impossible to harvest.

Soybeans are one of the region’s top crops.

Cass County leads the nation in soybean production, and surrounding counties also rank high.

Last year, Cass County alone harvested soybeans worth about $135 million, according to USDA figures.

Though prices of most crops have slumped in the past year, soybean prices remain strong.

“With these prices, it would hurt even more not to get the soybeans off,” Feiken said.

The area’s sugar beet harvest continues to progress, though with frequent rain delays and interruptions.

Moorhead-based American Crystal Sugar has harvested 83 percent of its beets, spokesman Jeff Schweitzer said Tuesday.

“It’s extremely slow going,” he said.

Wahpeton, N.D.-based Minn-Dak Farmers Cooperative has harvested 80 percent, spokesman Chris DeVries said.

“I’m crossing my fingers that today (Tuesday) will be a good day (for harvesting),” he said.

Forecasts call for the possibility of more precipitation later in the week.

The area’s corn harvest has been delayed by rain, just like it was in 2008.

“We’re about in the same position we were a year ago,” said Tom Lilja, executive director of the North Dakota Corn Growers Association.

Only 2 percent of North Dakota corn and 6 percent of Minnesota corn has been harvested, USDA said.

Corn farmers still have time to harvest their fields, provided the weather cooperates, he said.

Most area farmers who raise corn also grow soybeans.

Those farmers’ biggest concern right now is harvesting their soybeans, Lilja said.

The wet fall also has slowed the potato harvest, according to the Northern Plains Potato Growers Association, which is based in East Grand Forks, Minn.

About 4½ percent of potatoes in North Dakota and western Minnesota haven’t been harvested, according to an association survey.

The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead and the Herald are Forum Communications Co. newspapers.

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