Record soybean crop planted, but progress slowed by rain

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A record 85.1 million acres of soybeans are in the ground, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said Tuesday, but it's not clear whether they'll all sprout because persistent rain in some Midwestern states has flooded fields and slowed plant development.

The planted soybean acreage is 2 percent more than in 2014, with the largest increases found in Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota and Tennessee. However, just 89 percent of soybean seeds nationally have emerged from the ground — about 5 percentage points behind the five-year average.

Corn and soybean conditions in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa and Ohio have shown deterioration in recent weeks with the heavy rain. And in the soaked states, farmers who won't get their soybeans fields planted by Wednesday may be forced to use crop insurance to cover the lost production.

With a month of rain, Indiana's crops have gone from among the best in the nation to among the worst, Purdue Extension agricultural economist Chris Hurt said. The USDA said 19 percent of Indiana's 5.7 million acres of soybeans and 21 percent of its 5.7 million acres of corn in very poor or poor condition.

Hurt estimated Tuesday that production could decline by $475 million in the state.

"The current ratings can still improve during the rest of the growing season, and they can decline even more if weather remains harmful," he said in a written statement.

Missouri and Illinois have experienced the wettest Junes since the National Weather Service began keeping such records in the late 1800s. More than a third of Missouri's intended soybean crop has gone unplanted, and Kansas has 14 percent that's unplanted.

"Any chance I could get between rains, I went ahead and got things planted," said Jim Boerding, 46, who farms more than 1,600 acres near St. Charles, Missouri, west of St. Louis and near the rain-swollen Mississippi and Missouri rivers.

He started planting his 750 acres of corn later than normal in April, which went smoothly, thanks to a dry spell. When he pivoted to soybeans, the rains rolled in.

"It's sad watching the rain keep coming down," he said. "All your hard work getting the planting in, and something like this comes along. We'll take what we can get."

Boerding figures as much as half of his corn crop might be negatively impacted by the moisture that has made some of his fields soupy — or looking like miniature ponds. Bouts of hail and winds haven't helped, snapping many of the young plants.

Even in states like Iowa, where crops have gotten off to a good start, severe weather has taken a toll.

"The strong storms and heavy rains that rolled through Iowa last week have stressed crops, flooded some fields and limited farmers' ability to get needed work done," Iowa Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey said Monday.

While planted soybean acres are at record levels, the USDA said planted corn acres in the U.S. are the lowest since 2010 at 88.9 million acres.

Iowa, the nation's leading corn producer, has 13.7 million acres planted in corn, the same as last year, but its soybean acres grew by 100,000 acres to 10 million.

Illinois leads the nation in soybeans planted with 10.1 million acres in the ground, 300,000 more than last year. It's second in corn acres with 11.8 million, 100,000 less than last year.

Nebraska also has planted the same amount of corn as last year with 9.3 million acres; soybean acres dropped 200,000 acres to 5.2 million.

Wisconsin and Texas were two of a few states to increase planted corn acreage from 2014, 4.1 million and 2.25 million respectively.

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