Good news is hard to find in a corn field

You may recall a week or so ago, we discussed the odd economics of agriculture in Minnesota and elsewhere.

It was bad news; The harvest was bountiful, which means the prices farmers were getting for their season of work would be low. It was too much of a good thing.

“You always hope your neighbor burns up, hails out, whatever, dries up, but you have a good crop,” a farmer in Nebraska said. “You know, that’s just the way it works. But everybody had a good crop this year.”

What would be a real pick-me-up for farmers? How about snow? That would prevent farmers from bringing in what remains of the harvest, pushing prices higher. Right?

Apparently not, the Associated Press reports today.

“The season’s first snowstorm could be bad news for farmers in the Upper Midwest where corn remains in fields,” it says in its story this afternoon.

If you’re following along at home, that’s bad news when the harvest comes in. Bad news when it doesn’t.

A third of the corn crop hasn’t been harvested in Minnesota, according to the Associated Press.

Coincidentally, the storm comes as officials cut their projection of the corn harvest in this neck of the fields.

Minnesota Farm Guide reports the corn harvest this year — the one that was so good that it was bad news a week ago — is actually worse than expected.

Minnesota’s tough growing season wound up hurting corn farmers more than expected.

The Nov. 10 Crop Production Report indicated corn production of 1.287 billion bushels on 7.8 million acres with an average Minnesota corn yield of 165 bushels per acre compared with 170 bushels in the October report.

The 5-bushel per acre reduction means that Minnesota produced fewer corn bushels in 2014 than in 2013.

In 2013, the state produced 160 bushels per acre on 8.15 million acres for 1.304 billion bushels – 17 million bushels more than in 2014.

“For many farmers in Minnesota and Iowa, the crop had too much rain just after planting in May that hurt plant populations and the ability to produce big ears,” Mark Schultz, chief analyst for Northstar Commodity Investment Co. in Minneapolis, said in a telephone interview with Bloomberg. “The crop looked better than it performed because of the weather variability during the season. Any way you cut it, there will still be a big U.S. corn supply.”

The national corn harvest was a record, however, accounting for the lower prices, although the price farmers are getting for corn is up today because of the bad news.

It’s too late for many farmers who’ve already sent their corn away rather than store it, MPR’s Mark Steil reported today. As a result, farmers will face some financial hardship next year unless something bad happens to farmers elsewhere.

“Barring any major weather problems in South America or in the United States, we’re probably looking at kind of the same situation a year from now, unfortunately,” Minnesota Corn Growers Association President Bruce Peterson said.