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Tougher Decisions for Farmers This Harvest

Frank Morris/Harvest Public Media

This harvest season  farmers are having a tougher time deciding what to do with their crops once they’re out of the field.

The market price farmers get for their harvest is influenced by the reports the USDA puts out.

It’s not issuing these reports because of the partial government shutdown.

Virgil Schmitt is an agronomist with Iowa State University Extension, based in Muscatine, who covers Southeast Iowa.

He said once farmers combine the crop they have to make a choice. Sell it now, store it and sell it later. He said the lack of information from the USDA is making that decision harder to make.

"There are some private entities that are out there that are giving yield forecasts and prices are moving based on those, but none of those private entities have the breadth of surveillance so to speak that USDA does," Schmitt said.

Schmitt said the USDA takes around 400 samples to produce its harvest reports, while he’s heard informally that some of the private reports use around 20 or 30 samples.

He also said the lack of good information and the uncertainty it's causing could be pushing crop prices down.

Scott Stuntz is a former reporter at Tri States Public Radio.