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Southeast Missouri farmers deal with soggy crops

BLOOMFIELD, Mo. (AP)--In a normal year, farmer Mike Bell of Bloomfield, Mo., would have already planted 2,000 acres of corn on his farmland.

But this isn't an average planting season for the Stoddard County farmer, who farms with his son, Jeffrey.

Because of wet spring, he has 1,100 acres of corn planted. Bell expects he'll face a harvesting date nearly a month late--late November to early December--compared to the preferred late October.

"We've had too much rain,'' Bell said. "But there are a lot of variables that could improve the situation between now and then. We'll have to wait and see what happens.''

Bell is hoping for better results with his soybean crop, though it was planted later as well. Soybeans make up about 65 percent of his 5,300 acres, which Bell has farmed for 30 years. The area received two inches of rainfall in a recent week, forcing him to replant a portion of his soybeans.

"On freshly planted beans that (are) a little more than an inch deep, hot temperatures can cause them to rot,'' Bell said. "If that's the case, we'll have to replant 300 acres of beans. My cutoff date for optimal soybeans is June 26, so planting them anytime after that could cause me to lose my yield.''

Like Bell, farmers throughout Southeast Missouri and Southern Illinois are at the mercy of nature. In Cape Girardeau alone, a little more than 5.39 inches of rainfall fell during May, including 2.3 inches the last seven days of the month.

"With the wet weather we've been having lately we're definitely behind, especially with corn,'' said Missouri Extension agronomist Gerald Bryan. "A good portion of the state is late, and a lot of people have switched from corn to soybeans already. I expect we'll have a lower yield expectation of corn this fall. Because of the planting date we'll probably lose 20 percent on corn yields.''

The Missouri Department of Agriculture's latest report, said corn planting was nearly complete in the southern part of Missouri, but statewide was eight days behind the normal pace of 95 percent complete. The report rated corn conditions similar to the same time period in 2008, as 45 percent was rated good, 38 percent fair, 10 percent excellent, 6 percent poor and 1 percent very poor. Soybean planting was 43 percent complete statewide but 10 days behind the normal pace.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's weekly report found that area farmers planted 20 percent or more of their crop during the final week of May.

Roger Schwab of Fruitland said while he faces a late harvest of corn, he was optimistic. Schwab plants 400 acres of corn and 1,100 acres of soybean on his farmland.

"The wet weather makes it challenging, but we're progressing,'' Schwab said. "Some of my corn I planted may come in later than I would have wanted, but it's nothing to worry about. With commodity prices rising, things are looking good.''

Soybean futures for July delivery passed $12 a bushel last week for the first time in nine months and traded Friday for $12.30 per bushel, a 48 cent jump. Corn futures closed at $4.485 per bushel, an increase of 16 cents.

However, Bryan said that's no reason for celebration.

"It's good to have a good price on your soybeans, but at the same time you have to grow some soybeans to get money out of them,'' Bryan said. "That's some of the problem people are running into now. They're trying to get the crops growing.''

Cindy Faulkner farms 2,500 acres of soybeans, cotton, corn and wheat on her New Madrid, Mo., farm. All of her corn and cotton has been planted and nearly half of her soybeans have as well.

"As usual the weather has been difficult with the high winds early on,'' Faulkner said. "Rain has played a big factor in preventing much corn to be planted early, which ran into cotton planting time frame, which has delayed the rest of the bean planting.

"The Mississippi River has been high, so it has prevented planting behind the levees, and I know there are some who have lost some of their wheat crops,'' she said. "We're in pretty good shape now if the rains don't come in great amounts and soaks up what we have now.''

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