Heavy rains flood U.S. farmers' fields, raise river levels

CHICAGO Thu Jun 19, 2014 4:21pm EDT

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CHICAGO (Reuters) - Heavy rains across the northern U.S. Midwest this week flooded corn and soybean fields, damaging crops, and raised river levels which could slow some grain shipments by barge for the next two weeks.

Parts of Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota and Nebraska that received 5 to 10 inches of rain in the past week-the equivalent of about two months' of rainfall-are expected to benefit from drier weather next week, said Josh Senechal, agricultural meteorologist for Freese-Notis Weather.

There have been localized reports of damage to corn and soybeans from flooding and strong winds, Senechal said.

"It looks like the real heaviest rainfall is going to be done," he said.

Farmers whose fields were flooded are worried their corn and soybeans will die if they sit underwater too long.

The storms put the Minnesota River at Savage, Minn., where shippers such as CHS Inc and Cargill Inc [CARG.UL] have grain elevators, on course to hit moderate flood stage early next week, according to the National Weather Service.

The rising water levels were expected to bring barge loadings to a halt as vessels cannot safely pass under a river bridge, a barge trader in Minnesota said.

“We’re probably not going to load anything all next week," he said.

Water has been slow to recede from fields in northwest Iowa, killing corn and soybeans in affected fields, said Joel DeJong, a field agronomist at Iowa State University. Farmers have time to replant soybeans, but corn fields destroyed by the flooding will likely lie fallow this summer, he said.

Dave Fogel, a broker for Advance Trading in Bloomington, Ill., projected crop ratings for both crops will drop in a weekly U.S. Department of Agriculture condition report on Monday.

The U.S. corn crop was rated 76 percent good to excellent as of June 15, the best mid-June rating in 20 years, due to favorable weather.

Vance Johnson, a farmer in Breckenridge, Minn., said he was worried his corn yields will suffer because heavy rains likely washed nitrogen fertilizer out of the soil. He awoke to find the fields behind his house were underwater.

"If we can get this water off in 2 days, I dare say we could be ok," he said. "It won't kill it off, but more than likely it's going to hamper it."

(Reporting by Tom Polansek, Mark Weinraub and Michael Hirtzer in Chicago; Editing by Grant McCool)

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