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Weathering drought and then rain, Minnesota farmers struggle to plant on time

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After a drought, Minnesota farmers are now racing against time and lingering effects of rain to get crops in the ground.

The Associated Press reports that planting is "creeping" ahead, and that the U.S. Department of Agriculture said Monday that a statewide average of 3.6 days were suitable for fieldwork last week, a slight improvement from recent weeks.

Corn planting moved ahead 4 percentage points last week to 94 percent complete, while soybean planting moved 12 percentage points to 84 percent complete. Minnesota farmers normally have planted all their corn and nearly all their soybeans by now, according to the AP.

The first cutting of alfalfa hay advanced 31 percentage points to 38 percent complete, well behind the five-year average of 67 percent this time of year, according to the AP.

Just a week ago, the Pioneer Press reported that some 3 million acres of cropland hadn't been planted yet this spring. On the flip side, western Minnesota farmers are steal dealing with drought effects.

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In its weekly crop weather report for Minnesota, the U.S. Department of Agriculture notes the condition of the state's corn crop is still rated 77 percent fair to good. Soybeans were rated 81 percent in fair to good condition.

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The Plains states where the production of corn and soybeans is key are being hit harder by excessive drought conditions in the wake of the hottest month on record in the continental U.S., contributing to a surge in global food prices, the Associated Press says. The expanse of the U.S. still gripped by extreme or exceptional drought – the two worst classifications – rose to 24.14 percent this week, up nearly 2 percentage points from the previous week.