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Published October 07, 2009, 07:54 AM

Farmers frustrated by S.D.'s soggy fields

PLANKINTON — John Van Gorp spent Tuesday working in the shop on his farm with his two sons.
He would rather have been in the fields, harvesting his soybeans and corn, but another day of rain kept him inside.

By: Staff reports, The Daily Republic

PLANKINTON — John Van Gorp spent Tuesday working in the shop on his farm with his two sons.

He would rather have been in the fields, harvesting his soybeans and corn, but another day of rain kept him inside.

“It sets us back quite a ways,” said Van Gorp. “I should be cutting beans right now, and I can’t. Same way with corn. …

“I can’t do much. Fix fence — that’s about it.”

It’s a typical problem this week throughout South Dakota, a state where farmers are eyeing record yields but are so far unable to do much to get those crops into the bins. Over the past week, it has rained four days in the Mitchell area, dumping some 3 inches of rain on an already soggy region.

The rain has done more than dampen the fields. It also has somewhat dampened the spirits of producers who are optimistic about this year’s corn crop, which is forecast to set a state record. Last month, the South Dakota Field Office of the National Agricultural Statistics Service predicted 147 bushels per acre. If that forecast holds, the 2009 yield will surpass last year’s record yield of 133 bushels per acre.

A damp summer is credited for the increase. Now, however, a damp autumn could mean trouble.

“If it keeps raining for the next week, we’re in trouble. If it dries up, we’ll be in a much better situation,” said Lisa Richardson, executive director of the South Dakota Corn Growers Association. “Mother Nature can be kind in the next two months or wicked. … The question is, what will Mother Nature do?”

Richardson said the wet weather is difficult for farmers because it keeps them out of the fields. Dry conditions would be best, she said. If it continues to be wet but turns cold, it will harden the ground and allow producers to proceed with the harvest.

If it stays wet and doesn’t freeze, “then we would really struggle,” she said.

“From a producer’s perspective, they’re all staring at incredible corn yields and want to get it out (of the fields),” she said.

Tuesday afternoon in Mount Vernon, John Soulek of Kimball was finishing lunch at Westy’s and lamenting the recent rainfall.

“It’s really slowed us down,” said Soulek, who works north of Mount Vernon. “All of the soybeans, as of last week, were getting to the point where they were ready to go, but now it’s too wet.”

Soulek said that a month ago, such moisture would have been welcome. Before farmers can get back into the field, however, they will need “many sunny days,” he said.

According to accuweather.com, the weather should change for the better in the coming days.

Today has a 20 percent chance of rain in the evening, with highs around 70 and lows in the 40s. Thursday’s temperatures should top out in the mid-40s with a low of 30, with a 20 percent chance of rain. Friday should have highs of 45 and lows of 27, but with just a 10 percent chance of rain.

The weekend should be dry, but chilly, with highs of around 45 and lows around 28 Saturday and Sunday.

What’s bad for the farmers is bad for the trucking industry, too. Dan Froning, of rural Mitchell, does heavy hauling for producers but said that the recent wet weather “has brought everything to a halt.” He said the weather has put his trucking business about two days behind.

“It doesn’t let us get in the field to load it,” he said. “… That affects our bottom line because our trucks are sitting.”

It’s a frustrating situation, said Richardson, the head of the Corn Growers Association.

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