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Quad-Cities area harvest moving apace; corn soybean prices lower than last year

October 21, 2023   Quad City Times

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Local farmers are taking advantage of any good weather they can get in a wetter than normal October as harvest continues.


According to the National Agricultural Statistics Service, the statistical arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, as of Sunday, Oct. 15, Iowa farmers had harvested 74% of the soybean crop and 42% of the corn crop. Illinois farmers had harvested 61% of that state’s soybean crop and 52% of the corn crop.


Scott County farmer Robb Ewoldt said Wednesday that all of his soybeans have been harvested and that he has about 40% of his corn harvested.


“It rained us out about 1 p.m.,” Ewoldt said of the storm system that passed through Wednesday. “You always have some weather that holds you up in the fall so this is nothing new. We got rained out last Wednesday (Oct. 11) and then we got 3 ½ inches of rain on Friday (Oct. 13) and we were back in the fields on Monday.


“I’m not going to complain, the rain helps me out with the cow herd,” Ewoldt said. “The creeks are pooling and that gives us about a week to a week-and-a-half of water, which means I don’t have to haul water which makes for more work but doesn’t make me any more money.”


Due to some timely rains as well as good farming practices and improved seed genetics, Ewoldt said his crop this year is rivaling last year when he averaged 250 bushels an acre on corn and 70 bushels an acre on soybeans.


“The rains came at the right time,” he said, “and genetics have something to do with it, but I’m going to give credit to myself and the shape our soil is in as compared to 20 years ago based on current farming practices and what it was back then. We’re seeing the fruits of our labor and excites me to do more.”


Rock Island County farmer Tom Mueller said Wednesday that all of his soybeans are harvested and he is 15-20% done with corn.


“It’s always good to have the soybeans out once you get past the middle of October,” Mueller said. “Harvesting soybeans is much more particular weather wise. If you have to you can pick corn in the drizzle. Not so with soybeans.”


Ag prices are down from last year, Mueller said.


In June of 2022, corn averaged $7.38 a bushel, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service. That same month soybeans averaged $16.40 per bushel.


December corn settled Friday at 4.95 ½, down 9 ½ cents a bushel on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange while November soybeans settled Friday at 13.02 ¼, down 13 ¼ cents a bushel.


Corn was averaging $5.73 per bushel in August, while soybeans were average $14.10 per bushel, according to NASS.


“Corn’s just been in a spiral it seems like for the last two months,” Mueller said. “It tries to push up the $5 mark, yet it has been hanging under $5.


“We thought that report that came out showing that they lowered projected yields by another bushel an acre might pick things up, but there’s a lot of acres of corn and we still have a pretty good size carry over.”


One of the items affecting prices is the low levels of the Mississippi River south of St. Louis, Mueller and Ewoldt said. With the Mississippi River low, tow companies aren’t loading barges to their capacity, which has raised barge prices.


Christi Kilroy, Public Affairs, Chief, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Vicksburg, Mississippi, said Friday that the Corps is “working with our partners to mitigate drought impacts on commerce, recreation and delays of goods and services.


“This week, 14 dredges are operating on the Mississippi River and eight of the dredges are working the low-water emergency,” Kilroy said.


What would help alleviate the low river levels some timely rains in the Ohio and Missouri river valleys, the two largest watersheds feeding into the Mississippi River, she said.


“We would need a bunch of water in the Ohio River Valley and the Missouri River to raise our levels here,” Kilroy said.


The Mississippi River was low last year, she said, “but we were able to keep it open.”


“The Mississippi is quite wide here,” Kilroy said. “The depth is the important part. Depending on what the barges are carrying they may not be able to load them to the same capacity if the water were deeper.


“There may be delays if we’re dredging a particular part of the river,” she said. “But once we’re done dredging, we move to the side to let the traffic pass north and south. We then move to where we’re needed next.”


At 3 p.m. Friday, the Mississippi River at Vicksburg was at minus 1.34 feet. There is a lot of exposed bank at Vicksburg, Kilroy said, but the river is far from dry.


Senior Service Hydrologist Matt Wilson of the National Weather Service, Davenport, said that while one may see a minus 1.34 feet at Vicksburg, that does not mean the Mississippi River has dried up.


Some of the National Weather Service gauge locations were surveyed in the late 1800s, Wilson said. The Corps of Engineers went through in the 1920s and 1930s and did some surveys for gauges of their own and is on a different system than the National Weather Service.


During the surveying for the National Weather Service gauges, each survey team was able to choose its own local zero datum, an arbitrary elevation that the surveyors set as their zero for that location.


“When they were doing the surveying, a lot of the times they attempted to have that be roughly the river bottom, or the bed of the river,” Wilson said. “But over the years the river bottoms changed. In some places they got lower and in other places they got higher and in some places it’s been scoured out really deep.”


The Corps of Engineers dredges to keep a 9-foot river bottom, he said, so the river bottom has been dug out.


“We never want to change the local zero datum because that’s our historical record,” Wilson said. "It’s also why in the Quad-Cities you see, for example, maybe 12 feet at LeClaire but 20 feet at Lock and Dam 15 at Rock Island.”