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Crops are growing but prices still low for local farmers

Many corn fields will be knee-high and even waist-high by the Fourth of July this year in north-central Minnesota. Brian Hansel/Pioneer Journal

The growing season is under way in north central Minnesota, but while corn plants are reaching for the sky, prices are still flat.

Leaf River Agronomy Manager Mark Hess sees an average to above average crop production year taking place this summer.

"I think everything is looking good," Hess said last Wednesday. "We're going to have plenty of knee-high corn by the Fourth and even waist-high corn."

Knee-high corn by the Fourth of July has always been a yardstick that has held a lot of promise for Minnesota farmers.

Soybeans, potatoes and edible beans are on par with corn but local wheat fields are not. Drought in May during the pollination period for small grains created some problems according to Hess. Those same type of conditions has affected small grain crops in the central and south-central United States.

If Hess rates this year's crops a little behind those of 2016 it is because last summer saw exceptional crop production. Under some circumstances, a great yield would be a blessing but last year's overproduction hurt farmers by lowering prices.

Soybeans are under $9 a bushel at this point and corn is selling for less than $3 a bushel.

"I don't think prices are going to be anything to write home about," Hess said. "We're going to grow an average to above average crop so it looks like the prices are going to stay down."

U.S. farmers went into 2017 knowing prices this fall might be less than sunny but operating in a global market can create unforeseen opportunities. One of those places now is Sudan in central Africa.

Hess agrees the current drought and famine in the country of over 30 million could promote some buying by the United States government. Countries facing drought are usually hard-pressed to pay for imports so relief comes from richer nations.

"The American farmer is doing well in the world setting," Hess said.

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