No, Les Anderson hadn't quite started harvesting his corn. But the southeast Minnesota farmer was close to wrapping up his soybean harvest and, weather permitting, expected to start combining his corn in a few days.

"We hope to be done with (corn harvest) by early November," Anderson, a Cannon Falls, Minn., farmer and a past president of the Minnesota Corn Growers Association, said Oct 12. "So harvest is looking good."

Corn farmers across the region can say the same thing. Harvest of corn, as well as soybeans, is well ahead of their respective five-year averages, according to the weekly crop progress released Oct. 13 by the National Agricultural Statistics Service, an arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The new report reflected conditions on Oct. 11.

Credit the continued favorable weather. Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota all enjoyed an average of 6.5 to 7 days suitable for fieldwork during the week ending Oct. 11.

Older residents in much of the Upper Midwest will remember when corn for grain was a little bit exotic, a "southern crop" that didn't fit their area's short and sometimes chilly growing season.

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Times have changed, thanks to new, improved varieties that mature faster and require less moisture. Today, corn is common throughout the region, with the crop grown north to the Canadian border and west into Montana. That makes the annual corn harvest — which this year is roaring ahead and arguably the smoothest in recent memory — a cornerstone of the overall harvest season regionwide.

In Minnesota, 34% of corn was harvested on Oct. 11, up from the five-year average of 15%, according to the USDA report. Iowa farmers had combined 42% of their corn, compared with the five-year average of 17%. In North Dakota, 25% of corn was harvested, up from the five-year average of 9 %. South Dakota farmers had combined 39% of their corn, compared with the five-year average of 15 %.

This year's so-far-so-good harvest pace is especially welcome after exceptionally wet and muddy conditions in the harvest of 2019, Anderson said.

"We just don't have to deal with all the mud this year," Anderson said.

A year ago at this time, Minnesota farmers had just harvested just 4% of their corn, compared to the whopping 34% combined now.

Generally cooperative growing conditions this crop season helped to produce good to very good corn yields across much of the state, Anderson said.

Here's a closer look at the harvest pace for soybeans, sugar beets and sunflowers, as well as the planting pace for winter wheat. All figures are for Oct. 11.

Soybeans

Iowa — 78% was harvested, up from the five-year average of 35%.

Minnesota — 87% was combined, up from the five-year average of 49%

North Dakota — 83% was harvested, up from the five-year average of 54%.

South Dakota — 84% was combined, up from the five-year average of 42%.

Sugar beets

Minnesota — 86% was harvested, up from the five-year average of 52%.

North Dakota — 92% was harvested, up from the five-year average of 60%.

Sunflowers

North Dakota — 24% was harvested, up from the five-year average of 10%

South Dakota — 19% was combined, up from the five-year average of 9%.

Winter wheat

Montana — 66% was planted, down from the five-year average of 75%.

South Dakota — 88% was in the ground, up from the five-year average of 84%.