Early harvest?

Plenty of Arkansas farmers are getting ready for an early harvest, which will likely bring them better prices because supplies are tight before the nation’s harvest gets into full swing, reports the Associated Press.

The favorable weather in the state this growing season was a welcome development for growers who struggled the past two years with cold weather late in the spring and persistent storms that damaged their crops.

In Chicot County in southeast Arkansas, growers began harvesting soybeans last week. Now, rice and corn growers are preparing to do the same, as opposed to a late August or September harvest.

“The early harvest will benefit the grower,” said economist Scott Stiles of the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture. “The supply situation in soybeans is tight enough that Mississippi River elevators are offering a basis above Chicago Board of Trade prices.”

Growers may be able to command a 15 cent premium over August futures of $10.10 a bushel for soybeans, Stiles said.

China has said it intends to buy at least 1 million metric tons of soybeans a week in the 2010 marketing year, and “likely between 40 percent and 50 percent of that will come from the U.S.,” Stiles said.

“I suspect exporters love having our early crop to fill in the gap before the Midwest harvest starts,” Stiles said.

Stiles said corn growers who can harvest early can get an extra $16 per acre on a yield of 185 bushels per acre.

Some Arkansas rice growers are preparing to drain their fields, said Jackson County extension staff chair Randy Chlapecka.

“Some corn farmers have irrigated for the last time and some of the earliest rice will be drained later this week in preparation for harvest,” he said. “This is the earliest overall rice crop I can ever remember and a lot will be harvested by the end of August.”

Desha County extension staff chair Wes Kirkpatrick said growers benefited from hot weather in the late spring.

“We have a few acres of soybeans that are getting ready for harvest in two to three weeks,” he said. “We’re looking good for the most part and we have a lot of crops that are a week and two weeks ahead of schedule.

“This crop has been on the fast track from Day One,” he said. “The good, warm weather early on and the hot June progressed the crop compared to the average.”

But he noted that the hot weather required growers to irrigate more, increasing their costs. Diesel runs the irrigation pumps, and prices for the fuel are high. Thus growers need the higher prices to help cover costs rather than simply enjoying a windfall.

Some soybean-growing areas, such as Jackson County, have been hurt by storm damage, but Chlapecka said it doesn’t approach the scale of the damage the prior couple of years.

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