WINNIPEG/CHICAGO Oct 7 North America's wettest
harvest in about five years is hiking farmers' costs as they dry
crops to avoid spoilage and forcing them to take price discounts
that are pinching incomes already under stress.
One-fifth of the United States and Canadian crop belts were
soaked by abnormally high precipitation during the last month,
said Drew Lerner, meteorologist at commodity weather forecaster
World Weather Inc. There could be more rain next week, he added,
while some areas of Canada have already seen snow.
"What was in a swamp is now buried in snow," Lerner said.
With three-quarters of U.S. corn and soybeans still in
fields and some 20 percent of canola and spring wheat
unharvested in Saskatchewan, Canada's biggest wheat growing
province, many farmers could face discounts for damaged crops.
Iowa farmer Adam Kleiss said it has been his most difficult
harvest in a decade. Sloppy field conditions forced him to hire
extra workers, including one dedicated to a standby tractor to
tow trucks out of mud.
A larger payroll has halved his profits from last year.
Kleiss runs a propane-fuelled grain dryer continuously to avoid
spoilage of his crop and his propane costs will double to about
$60,000 to dry a quarter-million bushels of corn.
"This harvest is going to be a lot more expensive," he said.
In eastern Saskatchewan, commercial drying costs eat up 40
Canadian cents per canola bushel, or 4 percent of the C$9.75 per
bushel farmers collect, said Bob Barton, who advises farmers for
Agri-Trend. That works out to a cost of about C$14.50 per acre.
"That's an added stress for these guys," Barton said. Bank
accounts remain strong from the good years, but some farmers
will dip into savings or borrow to manage costs, he said.
It is still too early to gauge the full extent of damage to
crop quality and yields. The areas hit so far make up about 20
percent of the crop belt in the United States, the world's
biggest corn exporter and Canada, the largest canola exporter.
The extra costs for farmers come as corn futures prices have
been languishing near seven-year lows and canola remains well
below peaks hit in 2012.
Worries about the impact of wet weather helped corn futures
recover 8 percent since the beginning of September, while
canola has tacked on 2 percent.
But farmers with damaged crops are likely to face discounts
to these prices.
Doug Titus, an Indiana-based grain inspector, said fungal
growth triggered by wet weather resulted in the Diplodia ear rot
disease that typically reduces corn kernel weight.
Corn that weighs below benchmark levels can be discounted by
as much as 5 cents per bushel at Archer Daniels Midland Co's
corn processor in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. December corn
futures currently sell for about $3.40 per bushel.
Spring wheat quality in Saskatchewan, the biggest
wheat-growing province, is below average, as wet conditions
cause kernels to sprout and develop disease, according to the
Much of Saskatchewan's remaining canola crop was blanketed
by snow on Wednesday, but may still be harvested, said Ian Epp,
agronomy specialist with Canola Council of Canada. Standing
crops may lose yield, however, if they fall over under the
snow's weight, he added.
In Manitoba, farmer Robert Brunel is optimistic he will
eventually harvest his remaining 700 acres of soybeans and corn,
some of which sit in standing water. But first he needs colder
weather to harden muddy ground enough to drive on. If equipment
gets stuck, costly breakdowns can happen.
Snow would pose another problem for his harvest of soybeans,
a crop that grows low to the ground.
"That would be the end of it," he said.
(Reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg, Manitoba and Michael
Hirtzer in Chicago; Editing by James Dalgleish)