DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - The U.S. corn harvest is ahead of schedule, with some states nearly half-finished at a time when they usually are just getting started, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported Tuesday.
The USDA's weekly crop update recorded little change in the condition of drought-damaged corn and soybeans despite recent rain.
Bruce Johnson, an agricultural economics professor at the University of Nebraska, said the rain from what was once Hurricane Isaac came too late for this year's corn and soybeans, but it will help replenish soil moisture - a step toward easing the drought in the Midwest.
Corn was planted several weeks earlier this year because of a warm spring, and Johnson said the harvest is moving quickly because the crop matured faster than usual in this summer's heat. Also, he said, farmers in some parts of the corn belt feared Isaac's winds would knock down weakened cornstalks and rushed to harvest what they could before the storm made it to their area.
Many others are simply eager to get this year behind them.
"Everybody has the same idea, let's just knock this out and get on with life," Johnson said.
The USDA said Tennessee has 49 percent of its corn in, compared to the usual 21 percent. Missouri is at 44 percent, ahead of the average 8 percent.
Nebraska is at 7 percent, and Iowa, the nation's leading corn producer, is at 5 percent. Typically those farmers haven't begun yet.
In Nebraska, farmers have been advised to keep a close watch on their equipment during the harvest because it's so dry the machinery could spark fires.
The drought damaged pastures as well as crops. The USDA said pastures in more than 95 percent of Nebraska, a big ranching state, are in poor or very poor condition. Ranchers are buying supplemental feed, and some farmers are chopping corn to feed their animals. Some have sold off cows as feed supplies dwindle and costs increase.
Iowa farmers face similar circumstances. Some farmers harvesting corn for grain are going back through the fields and baling the stalks for livestock feed.
Eighty percent of Iowa's pasture and range land is rated poor or very poor.