Iowa’s bumper corn and soybean harvest, held hostage in the fields by rain and cool temperatures, is diminishing in value. Monday’s federal crop report says only 18% of Iowa’s corn crop has been harvested, 22 days behind the five year average. Last week’s heavy rains and cloudy skies kept combines out of the fields. Iowa State University agronomist Pella Peterson says that added moisture is bottlenecking grain dryers.
“The fall and winter came in so early…we don’t have the wind or heat now. With the big crop of corn sitting out there, the farmers are not running full speed. They don’t have drying capacity to dry down every day,” Peterson said. “You have these huge combines, but you can’t dry the crop fast enough. It’s a huge issue and I don’t think people outside of agriculture understand what kind of impact it can have.”
That impact could amount to millions of dollars. Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey, speaking on a cell phone while harvesting corn on his own farm near Spirit Lake, calls it a very concerning situation.
“As a state, we still have about half of the soybeans left to combine and a vast majority of the corn yet to come out of the fields as well,” Northey said. “There’s probably somewhere north of seven or eight billion dollars worth of crops still in the fields.” Northey says many off-the-farm jobs may well depend on getting corn and soybeans out of the field before further loss in quantity and quality. Iowa recorded 6.3 inches of rain in October, making it the wettest October since 1881.