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Dry spell cuts into crop yield

Southern Minn. fares better than rest of state

Associated Press

ST. CLAIR, Minn. -- Harold Loeffler is one thankful farmer.

Drought conditions in central and northern Minnesota are expected to cut deeply into yields for major crops. But southern Minnesota farmers such as Loeffler are in better shape thanks to timely rains that have crops looking good.

"It's been a good growing season. It got a little dry, but the rains came just before there was a catastrophe," Loeffler said.

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Loeffler husked an ear of corn with nearly full yellow kernels. He said his corn is maturing ahead of schedule.

"It's not there until it's in the bin, so you don't want to count on it too much ahead of time," he said. "But it's looking good."

Loeffler and other southern Minnesota farmers who've had adequate rain will help bolster the state's crop production. Still, the U.S. Department of Agriculture expects more bad news than good in Minnesota farm fields.

Minnesota's average corn yields were expected to drop 8 percent from last year's record crop, according to estimates released Friday. The state's soybeans were in worse shape, with the estimated yield down 18 percent from 2005.

The USDA predicts the average Minnesota soybean field will produce eight fewer bushels an acre than last year. Corn should average 14 bushels less.

For Minnesota soybean producers, the forecast would work out to a loss of 58 million bushels, or nearly $300 million at current prices.

In its weekly crop-weather report, the state field office of the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service said Monday that topsoil moisture supplies were rated short or very short in most of the northern two-thirds of the state. It said crops in northern and central Minnesota are still stressed from lack of rain.

The report also said about half of the state's corn and soybean acreage was rated in good or excellent condition and that crop development continued to advance ahead of the five-year average. Topsoil moisture was rated adequate across the southern third of the state and in a few pockets of northern and western Minnesota. The dry weather sped up the small-grain harvest. Spring wheat was 73 percent harvested, 40 percentage points above the five-year average.

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Near Benson in west-central Minnesota, parched fields such as Brian Ruppe's are in trouble. He expects his corn yield to be half or less of normal, though he said his soybeans still have a chance.

It's been a long time between rains this year, Ruppe said last week.

Adding to the bad news are falling grain prices.

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