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Some northern SD crops hit by hail storm

Farmers in northern South Dakota started planting on schedule this past spring, but a hail storm affected some of those crops. Larry Cook is a partner in L&O Acres of Westport, with Greg Odde. The two have been friends since growing up in the Wahpeton, N.D., area. Odde's sons, Kirby and Kris, are also in the company. The farm produces corn and soybeans. The group also runs a 13-unit trucking company and Far Better Farm Equipment Co., which markets Kinze Grain Carts, Miller Nitro Sprayer and other short lines.

L&O and its associated businesses employ more than 30 people -- all local labor, and all year round. "We have to -- the machinery we run is pretty complicated and big," Cook says. "You can't rotate good operators in and out. Our biggest turnover is in truck drivers." The farm has six combines and nine large Case-IH tractors.

The farming operations are based about 11 miles north of Aberdeen. L&O operates in nine counties about 150 miles north to south, and 100 miles east to west -- from near Ellendale, N.D., to Woonsocket to near Iroquois.

Crops this year were planted in a timely fashion, right around the first of May, Cook says. L&O runs four corn planters and three air seeders. The last 2,500 acres took longer than the first 35,000, he says. Corn was getting ready to tassel on July 17. Beans are further behind in the north, but about normal in the south.

A hail storm on July 10 took out a strip of crop from Forbes, N.D., to Groton. "We lost one section of beans up there, just this side of Frederick," Cook says. It was big enough hail to crush cattails, perhaps 2 inches in diameter.

Unlike corn, beans get hailed on and two or three days later, they're putting on new leaves. "I've had beans hailed out in the first part of July before, and come back and make 40 bushel to the acre," Cook says, but adds it is trickier to harvest the weakened beans.

Cook's main concern about this year's crop is declining prices, which doesn't make sense because the carryout supplies are low, and because the crop isn't there yet.

Last year at this time, the crop looked "awesome," he says. But the drought cut the yield to less than half, at 60 to 70 bushels per acre.