The rain and wet snow late last week halted corn harvest for a few days. Fortunately, some very good late-fall weather conditions in the final week of October and the first few days of November allowed many farm operators in south-central Minnesota to complete their 2008 corn harvest. There is still approximately 20-25% of corn left to be harvested, with more corn remaining in the field in southeast and central Minnesota. Most growers are still finishing up fall tillage and are completing fall fertilizer and manure applications. The situation with the wet field conditions and very cold temperatures could cause problems for fall nitrogen and manure applications, if those conditions persist until the soil is completely frozen.

Corn yields have been good to excellent in many areas of southern Minnesota, rivaling the excellent corn yields of 175-200+ bu./acre in 2005, and well above the long-term average yields of 160-170 bu. However, there are also areas of the region that were extremely dry from mid-July to mid-August, which are realizing more average corn yields. There have been many yield monitor, weigh-wagon and check-strip yield reports well above 200 bu./acre for corn in the region. In most instances, whole-field yields are significantly below the yield monitor or weigh-wagon yields, especially this year with the highly variable yield levels in the same field. Whole-field yields are based on the total bushels harvested or sold, divided by the number of acres planted last spring in a field or on a farm. Most yield reports promoted by seed companies are based on yield plots and weigh-wagon yields, and not on whole-field yields. Producers, landlords and others need to be sure what yield data is being referred to, when they are quoting yield figures for 2008.

November USDA Crop Report
The latest USDA Crop Production Report, released on Nov. 10, 2008, gives an indication of the final harvest results for the 2008 U.S. corn and soybean crop, and what the carryover grain stocks are as we head into 2009. According to the USDA report, it is estimated that 78.2 million acres of corn will be harvested in 2008 with a total production of 12.02 billion bushels of corn. The estimated 2008 corn production level is the second-highest on record, trailing only the 2007 record national corn production of 13.1 billion bushels. Harvested corn acreage in 2008 will also be the second-highest since 1946, trailing only the 2007 level of 86.5 million acres. The estimated U.S. average corn yield for 2008 is 153.8 bu./acre, compared to 151.1 bu./acre in 2007.

The Nov. 10 USDA Crop Report estimated the average corn yield in Minnesota for 2008 at 168 bu./acre, which is the second-highest state average corn yield on record, trailing only the record corn yield in 2005 of 174 bu./acre. Other recent corn yields in Minnesota were 167 bu./acre in 2007, 166 bu. in 2006 and 159 bu. in 2004. In the major corn-producing states in the U.S., corn yield estimates for 2008 are: 172 bu./acre in Iowa, 177 bu. in Illinois, 160 bu. in Indiana and 161 bu. in Nebraska.

The Nov. 10 report estimated the total U.S. soybean production for 2008 at 2.92 billion bushels, This compares to 2.68 billion bushels in 2007. The total harvested soybean acreage in 2008 is estimated at 74.4 million acres, which is up 16% from the 2007 level of 64.1 million acres, and is the second-highest on record. The projected U.S. average soybean yield for 2008 is 39.3 bu./acre, which compares to 41.7 bu. in 2007. USDA estimates average 2008 soybean yields in Minnesota to be at 39 bu./acre, compared to 40 bu. in 2007. Iowa has a projected soybean yield of 46 bu. for 2008.

Post-Election Impacts
Another national and state election day is history, and most results are now final – with the exception of the U.S. Senate race in Minnesota and a couple of other states. Barack Obama will become the next president of the U.S. on Jan. 20, 2009. There has been much focus on who he will appoint to key positions in his new administration, including USDA ag secretary, EPA director, U.S trade representative and others who relate to agriculture policy. The major issue facing the new administration in 2009 will likely be the struggling U.S. economy, which may delay emphasis other ag-related issues for awhile.

Based on ag policy discussions during the presidential campaign, it appears that the Obama administration will be very supportive of strengthening our country’s commitment to renewable energy, both for existing sources such as wind energy and corn-based ethanol, as well as for research and development on new technologies such as cellulosic ethanol and energy from biomass, etc. Most observers expect the Obama administration to push for stricter payment limits on farm program payments and tighter bans on packer ownership of livestock, both of which were big issues in the 2008 Farm Bill. Other likely areas of emphasis are expected to be food safety and water quality efforts across the U.S., as well as setting a future direction for U.S. trade policy. Of course, many of these ag policy measures need to be approved by congress before they can be implemented by the Obama administration.

Editor’s note: Kent Thiesse is a former University of Minnesota Extension educator and now is Vice President of MinnStar Bank, Lake Crystal, MN. You can contact him at 507-726-2137 or via e-mail at kent.thiesse@minnstarbank.com.