MONROE CITY, Mo. — As vice president of the Missouri Farm Bureau, Todd Hays is known as a well-informed and articulate champion for farming, who often speaks at public events.
Still, there was the briefest of hesitations when the Monroe City farmer was asked about the surprisingly good yields that he has seen this fall. Then he began to answer the question with his own experiences, backed up with comments from other producers.
“Not only us, but others in the area have had fields with corn hanging around 200 bushels per acre. Soybeans are in the upper 50s to upper 60s (bushels per acre) on some farms. Those are very good crops,” Hays said.
According to the Missouri Corn Growers Association, estimates call for statewide yields near 175 bushels per acre. That’s up from 155 bushels in 2019. A soybean estimate from late September projected a 53-bushel yield for Missouri soybeans, up from 46 bushels last year.
Hays said prices have been rising recently too – another pleasant surprise.
“We’ve seen a good demand for both corn and soybeans and higher prices during harvest in the fall, which you wouldn’t usually see. Most producers are happy with where the prices are right now. We would like them higher, but this will keep it sustainable,” Hays said.
During July corn prices were about $3.40 per bushel, but ADM Quincy bids on Thursday had October delivery corn at $3.84 and October delivery beans at $10.45. November delivery bids are at $4.07 and $10.62 respectively.
Hays said some farm implements have been a little harder to get due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Maybe it’s a little harder getting things shipped coast to coast and production of those parts was at a halt for a while,” Hays said.
Doug Burnett, president of TPNB Bank, said that harvest reports he is getting from clients are encouraging for both the banks and the community. Harvest is an important time of the year for the agriculture-focused bank.
“We are hearing good news about yields and overall, the harvest appears to be going well,” Burnett said. “Agriculture is the largest business in Monroe County, so this is a very important time of year. Look at all the businesses and jobs tied to agriculture.”
Farmers are working long hours to bring in their crops, illustrated by the lines at area cooperatives and grain-buying facilities. On a recent night in Center, there were lines of trucks waiting to unload their grain at the ADM Elevator. Elevators all over the area are open long hours to accept crops.
“The cooler temperatures in early September delayed harvest a little this year, but the recent dry weather conditions have been good for harvesting. We have been seeing steady delivery volumes since crops started coming in at the end of September,” said Matt Kelch, manager of ADM’s grain elevator in Center.
Daniel Mallory, the field livestock specialist for the University of Missouri Extension Service in New London, said the dry weather has allowed farmers to get into their fields for the harvest. But he said dry weather can have its drawbacks.
“I’ve heard about some beans that were down to 8% moisture and that’s low,” Mallory said.
Most row crop producers prefer to have their soybeans at 11 to 13% moisture levels. When beans fall below that they weigh less “and then you’re selling more beans at a lighter weight,” Mallory said.
Matt Wright, who farms near Emden, was harvesting soybeans on Thursday. Wright, the Missouri Soybean Association vice president, had finished one farm that was yielding 62 bushels per acre.
“Now we’re cutting some beans where we’ll be in the 48- to 50-bushel range. We’re cutting beans at 9% (moisture level) and would like it to be a little higher,” Wright said.
He’s seen some weather forecasts calling for rain a few days next week. That has him running the combine to get crops out of the fields, but he also hopes the rain will help bring soybean moisture levels up.
Rain also is needed for pastures that are drying out earlier than usual.
Jason Dodge and his wife own about 100 cows on their farm near Paris. He said dry conditions may force him to start feeding hay soon.
“I expect that if it does not rain soon we will start feeding hay in a couple of weeks, which is about a month sooner than the past couple of years,” Dodge said.
Fortunately, Dodge said the plentiful rain earlier this year resulted in an abundance of hay in this region.
“If you look at any classifieds or hay markets, there is plenty around the area priced reasonably,” Dodge said.
Hays said even though things are busy during harvest season, he thinks it’s important for farm families to take time to reflect, slow down and take stock in their way of life.
“Sometimes we have people get on and ride the combine with us. I’m pretty quick to tell them what we can do in 30 minutes, our grandfathers needed a full day to get done,” Hays said.
He said fewer than 2% of Americans are farmers and he feels blessed that his son is the seventh generation involved in farming.