Corn  and soybean  producers across the Midwest have had a long fall harvest season, with many farm operators completing harvest by early December, while others are still battling the winter weather to finish up corn harvest. Regardless of the situation, producers need to pay close attention to monitoring grain that is stored in on-farm grain bins for potential storage problems. Much of the corn and soybeans in 2009 were harvested at less than ideal conditions, and the grain quality going into storage was poor in many situations. There were also some issues with added fines and kernel damage with grain going into storage, as well as mold issues in some of the corn being placed in storage. It is very important to check grain bins on a regular basis for any potential storage issues, and to address those issues promptly. Otherwise, there can be considerable damage to grain in storage, resulting in a significant financial loss to the farm operator.
In addition, we have had a wide range of temperatures in the past several weeks, from very cool in late October, to very warm in November, to extremely cold in early December. These extreme changes in outside temperature can cause wide temperature variations in grain bins, resulting in moisture migration in the bin and potential for grain spoilage. Farm operators should run aeration fans periodically to equalize the grain bin temperatures in order to help prevent this situation, and should check grain bins on a regular basis to observe for potential problems.
DCP and ACRE Program Signup For 2010
USDA  announced in earlier this fall that sign-up has started for the 2010 DCP  and ACRE  programs at county Farm Service Agency  (FSA) offices, and will continue until June 1, 2010. Producers who enroll in the DCP program for 2010 can receive 22% of their expected direct payment shortly after sign-up, with the balance being paid after Oct. 1, 2010. Producers who enrolled in the ACRE program in 2009, or who opt for the ACRE program for 2010, will have their total direct payments reduced by 20% for 2010. Producers who wish to receive their 2010 DCP program advance direct payment in 2009 must contact their county FSA office by Friday, Dec. 18, in order to ensure payment in 2009. Otherwise, the advance payment will be made after Jan. 1, 1010.
Producers who enrolled farms in the ACRE program for 2009 will automatically have those farms enrolled in the ACRE program for 2010. Producers may enroll additional farms in the ACRE program for 2010; however, once a farm is enrolled in ACRE, it must also remain in ACRE for the 2011 and 2012 crop years, regardless of what crop is raised in those years. Rules and regulations for the ACRE program for 2010 are not likely to change very much from 2009. The five-year average state and farm-level yields will be updated to include 2009 crop yields, and the benchmark prices for 2010 will be based on the 2008 and 2009 average crop prices.
Producers can enroll for the 2010 DCP program at county FSA offices in the coming months in order to receive their advance direct payment, and decide later – up until June 1, 2010 – whether or not they want to enroll in the ACRE program for 2010. It is probably good advice to wait until later this winter or until next spring to decide on ACRE for 2010, once we know the final yield figures for 2009 and we have a better handle on grain price trends. If a producer signs up for the DCP program in the next couple of months, and later enrolls in ACRE for 2010, any adjustments in the direct payment will be made on the final payment after Oct. 1, 2010.
For more information on sign-up for the 2010 DCP or ACRE program, producers should contact their county FSA office.
2009 Custom Rates
Given the long and difficult fall harvest season in 2009, more farm operators than normal provided custom work to other farmers to assist with finishing harvest and fall tillage . So, many farmers are now wondering what a fair custom rate is for the various faming practices that were performed this fall? Iowa State University releases the annual Iowa Farm Custom Rate Survey  each year in February, which is based on a survey of custom operators, farm managers and ag lenders on what they expect custom farm rates to be for various farm operations to be for the coming year. This is probably the most accurate and updated custom rate information that is available in the Upper Midwest.
All listed custom rates in the Iowa survey results include fuel and labor, unless listed as rental rates or otherwise specified. These average rates are only meant to be a guide for custom rates, as actual custom rates charged may vary depending on continued increase in fuel costs, availability of custom operators, timeliness, field size, etc.
Editor’s note: Kent Thiesse  is a former University of Minnesota Extension educator and now is Vice President of MinnStar Bank, Lake Crystal, MN. You can contact him at 507-726-2137 or via e-mail at [email protected] .