Weather woes leave farmers uncertain

5:05 PM, Jun 28, 2013   |    comments
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CANNON FALLS, Minn. - Not since Kansas rocked AM radio has anyone been so grateful for dust in the wind.

After weeks of soaked fields and planting delays, Minnesota farmers are finally putting in the last of their corn crops, leaving big questions about the corn's ability to mature before the growing season ends.

"This is about two months behind what we would normally expect," said Chuck Schwartau as he stood in a field near Cannon Falls with corn barely emerging from the ground.

"It's going to be a long haul. We need a lot of season to get grain out of this," said the U of M extension agent.

Schwartau says farmers will need warm weather, timely rains and a late frost if they hope to recover from late planting.

There's still hope for corn, but many farmers had to give up on their alfalfa crops. Marc Hernke's family was forced to replant 400 acres of alfalfa, a primary food for dairy herds like theirs.

"In all my years of farming, I've never seen anything like this, and my parents have never seen anything like this," he said.

Widespread alfalfa losses were reported this spring across a swath of Minnesota and Wisconsin, likely due to stress from last year's drought and freezing and thawing over the winter.

"There are farms that lost nearly all of their alfalfa, but on the whole we figured about 80 percent of the alfalfa in Goodhue County was lost this spring," reported Schwartau.

Instead of four cuttings of hay during the summer, farmers will settle for one or two as the new plants mature, meaning they must find alternative feeds like cotton seed for their milk cows or ship in hay from other states. Finding that hay isn't cheap. Prices for good alfalfa have doubled since the supply became tight.

"I've heard people coming all the way from Georgia to bring hay into the Midwest," said Hernke.

Minnesota's farmers are ready to leave this year's crazy weather in the dust.

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