WILLMAR, Minn. - Heavy rain and days of drizzle that blanketed much of western Minnesota earlier this month created muddy fields that kept most farmers inside doing paperwork instead of field work.
That changed this week as sun and wind started to dry out fields, allowing farmers to get equipment moving in corn, soybean and sugar beet fields.
Compared to the five-year average, harvest of all three crops is behind schedule. With a stretch of good weather ahead, farmers are hustling to make up for lost time.
"People are finally able to get in the field in the last couple of days," said Liz Ludwig, Farm Service Agency director in Chippewa and Yellow Medicine counties. "They'll go like gangbusters and have some good success. But there's still some standing water," she said.
Peter Fank was driving the grain cart Thursday, Oct. 18, in his soybean field near Sunburg.
It was only the second day he has been able to harvest beans this fall because of wet conditions.
"Mother Nature will give you what it wants," Fank said good-naturedly. "Hopefully, we can get some good weather conditions in the next 6-7 days."
After a 10-day rain delay in the sugar beet harvest, farmers got the OK Wednesday to start lifting beets again, said Todd Geselius, vice president of the Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative in Renville.
"Right now we're definitely behind our normal pace," Geselius said.
According to the most recent U.S. Department of Agriculture crop report, sugar beet harvest was a week behind average.
"Everybody's been anxious to get going again," Geselius said. "Getting back at it always picks up everybody's spirits."
The weather punched sugar beets with a triple-whammy this year.
Spring rains delayed planting, summer rains drowned out some crops and rain this fall is making it difficult to get crops out, Geselius said.
"We're going to have one of our poorer crops this year," he said. "It's a reflection of all the heavy rains this spring and summer."
If the predicted good weather holds for next week, Geselius said the region's sugar beets should be harvested in the next 14 days.
"Our intention is to stay open until we get done with harvest, or we get another weather event that stops us," he said.
Corn and soybean harvest is starting to pick up as farmers find fields that are dry enough to handle the heavy equipment without getting stuck.
"The crop is ready," said Tom Traen, general manager at Glacial Plains Cooperative in Murdock. "A lot of the problem is just getting across the land because the soil is so wet."
"It's muddy and slow and I think farmers are frustrated with that," said Todd Stanghelle, from Allied Grain in Blomkest.
Yields and the condition of beans and corn are varied.
Some fields were drowned out during early rains but some farmers are "surprised at what they're getting" with high yields, Stanghelle said.
Traen said farmers are reporting a "very good" crop.
Early reports indicate soybean yields in the 60- to 70-bushel range per acre and corn in the 200- to 230-bushel range per acre.
It's a good thing the yields are high, because prices are not.
Tariffs imposed by President Trump have reduced the market and price for soybeans, which means many farmers intend to store their soybeans this year in hopes prices will eventually increase.
Usually, Glacial Plains Co-op starts shipping soybeans in December, but Traen said that's not likely to happen because of the market disruption with the tariffs. He said he hopes the market will make corrections and beans can be sold and moved out by March.
To offset the impact of the tariffs, a federal bailout will bring some added revenue to farmers.
Fank said he supports the action Trump is taking with the tariffs and is hopeful the markets will eventually straighten out. He expressed reluctance in applying for the federal program, which he said will generate about a penny per bushel of corn and 80 cents per bushel of soybeans.
The deadline to sign up for the market facilitation program is Jan. 15 at county Farm Service Agency offices.
Ludwig said farmers don't typically come into FSA offices in the fall - and some may not be aware of the program or the deadline. She said farmers need to fill out an application to enroll in the program in order to get the funds.
The bailout is available for soybeans, corn, wheat, sorghum, hogs and dairy.