Snowfall put the brakes on the corn harvest for Minnesota farmers, but they are so far ahead of schedule this fall that it shouldn't be more than a speed bump for most of them.
"It has slowed us down," said Tom Haag, a farmer near Eden Valley. "Since the snow last Tuesday we haven't done any more combining, and we're waiting until we get some warmer temps."
Combines aren't made to handle snow that's sitting on corn leaves, but the snow also doesn't really hurt the corn. Most of the soybeans in the state have already been harvested.
"All the soybeans, except if there's a straggler field here or there, have been harvested," said Dave Nicolai, a crops educator for the University of Minnesota Extension. "And that's the key thing because you can't really combine soybeans when there's snow on them."
As of Saturday, 72% of the corn in Minnesota had been harvested, according to a Monday report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Some 96% of soybeans had been harvested a week earlier, and the USDA stopped reporting on the soybean harvest in Minnesota this week.
Statewide, field corn is drier than the five-year average, which means farmers will pay less to have it dried. And even with the snow, the harvest is well ahead of the typical year for the past half-decade.
Fall tillage — when farmers go through their fields and turn over all the dirt — may be delayed in some places by the snow. The snow, however, insulated the ground so it hasn't frozen as much in the cold conditions of the past week, Haag said.
"There's some pluses and minuses with it, but we've dealt with that before," he said.
If the forecast for the week holds, and temperatures rise into the 50s by the weekend, the harvest should be fine for Minnesota farmers.
Haag has 700 acres of corn yet to harvest, but even if it takes him another two weeks to bring it all in, that's two weeks earlier than last year, he said.
"And the corn that we've got coming in is a better quality than last year — drier, better test weight," he said.
Adam Belz • 612-673-4405 Twitter: @adambelz