Wet conditions may force farmers to postpone the U.S. confection sunflower harvest until ground freezes.

By Dario Bard

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October has been an unusually wet month for the United States’ major confection sunflower growing area. The month began with 70 mph winds and up to 5 feet of snow courtesy of winter storm Atlas. The storm resulted in livestock losses numbering in the thousands in South Dakota alone.

“Following the storm, we had a lot of rain these past few weeks and extremely cold, below normal temperatures,” reports National Sunflower Association Executive Director John Sandbakken.

“Because of these factors, the ground hasn’t had an opportunity to dry, and so it is very wet and muddy.”

Farmers attempting to harvest their crop under these conditions are often ending up with their combines stuck in the mud.

“The way things look right now, the ground will have to freeze solid like it does in winter before anyone will be able to take any equipment into the fields,” says Sandbakken. Consequently, he believes the harvest won’t really get underway until much later than usual. Typically, the confection sunflower harvest wraps up by mid-November, but Sandbakken sees it possibly extending into early 2014.

“It is going to be a very difficult situation in the main sunflower growing area this year,” he says, noting that the longer the crop stays in the ground, the greater the expected losses.

A confection sunflower production estimate was expected from the USDA in October as part of a report that was cancelled due to the government shutdown. As a result, an official confection sunflower production estimate won’t be forthcoming until January.

IFT intends to stay on top of the situation and keep readers informed of any future developments.