Sign-Up
Almost lost in President’s Bush’s visit to the Mankato area last week was a fairly significant announcement regarding the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). This announcement was made during the President’s visit to a LeSueur County farm on August 4. There will be a general CRP sign-up from August 30 through September 24, 2004. Contracts would start on October 1 of either 2005 or 2006. The President also announced that USDA will offer early re-enrollment and contract extensions for CRP contracts that are expiring in 2007 and beyond. Sixteen million acres of land in the United States are under CRP contracts that will expire in 2007, and another 10 million acres are under CRP contracts that will expire in 2008 and 2009. The goal of USDA is to keep much of the existing CRP land under the program after the existing CRP contracts expire, and to add new CRP acres, in order to move closer toward the targeted goal of 39.2 million acres that are allowed in CRP nationwide. For more information on the upcoming CRP sign-up or the CRP contract extensions, landowners should contact their County Farm Service Agency (FSA) or NRCS Office.

Continued Cool Weather
The cooler than normal weather pattern that existed throughout much of June and July across the upper Midwest has continued into early August. This has caused some observers to raise concerns regarding corn and soybeans reaching maturity, especially in the northern half of Minnesota, and on late planted soybeans. If this cool weather pattern continues, we will likely see much higher corn drying costs than we have seen in recent years. Any forecast for a hard freeze in September is likely to cause considerable interest among farm operators and crop market observers. This may provide a marketing opportunity for crop producers that still have remaining inventory of 2003 corn and soybeans left to sell before the 2004 harvest. Ideally, most growers would like to see a couple weeks of above normal temperatures in late August and early September to help crops reach maturity and to enhance the yield potential of the 2004 corn and soybean crop.

Storm Damage In SW MN
There have been numerous severe thunderstorms across different parts of Minnesota in recent weeks that have brought strong winds, hail, and heavy rains. The storms have caused some property damage and crop loss. Probably the most severe storm occurred on August 3 from eastern South Dakota across southern Minnesota, and continuing on through northeast Iowa and western Wisconsin. Some of the greatest damage appears to be in southwest Minnesota, where sustained winds of 80-90 mph caused considerable property and crop damage. The cities of Luverne, Adrian, Worthington, Brewster and other smaller communities had considerable property damage and numerous trees uprooted or severely damaged. The strong winds cut a path about 8-10 miles wide across Rock, Nobles and part of Jackson County, flattening thousands of acres of corn and causing considerable property damage on farm sites. Officials have estimated that 35 percent of the corn in Rock County was impacted by the storm. The storm continued across Martin, Faribault and Freeborn counties with strong winds, heavy rains and hail. Parts of those counties had 7-9 in. of rain the first few days of August.

There is likely a wide variation in the flattened corn. Corn plants that are snapped off or completely pulled out of the ground are a total loss. However, it is likely that most corn will probably continue growing and maturing. The biggest problem will be at harvest time. The corn will have to be harvested very slowly and probably combined in one direction. It is also likely that this corn may mature more slowly, which is a concern since we are one to two weeks behind normal for accumulated growing degree units. This could make the flattened corn more susceptible to frost damage. There is also more likelihood of stalk and ear diseases in the damaged corn. The areas of heavy rainfall with considerable standing water could also see some yield reductions, due to added stress on corn and soybean plants and potential for root rots and diseases.

Growers with crop damage that have crop insurance should contact their crop insurance agent to report the damaged acres. Most likely, crop insurance settlements will not occur until after harvest is completed. Farm operators with the revenue assurance or CRC type crop insurance policies will likely have some added yield coverage this Fall, if corn and soybean prices remain lower than the initial insurance prices last March. Growers should contact their insurance agent for more specifics.

Editors 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.