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Dry Spring Has Farmers Ahead Of Schedule

MONTICELLO, Minn. (WCCO) -- Dry conditions continue to plague much of Minnesota, with seasonal rainfall far below normal.

The problem is most severe in the northwestern part of the state, where farm fields are crying for much-needed moisture.

But the abnormally-dry spring does have a positive side -- it's allowing farmers to get a big jump on spring planting. Many parts of the state report field work that's weeks ahead of schedule.

The Holker family has been tilling the rich soils south of Monticello for more than a century. Third-generation farmer Teddy Holker climbs into the cab to do something he hasn't done in years -- finish spring planting in April.

"Anything could happen," Holker said.

Minnesota's farmers are weeks ahead of schedule statewide, helped along by the perfect spell of spring weather.

Dry Farming Conditions
(credit: CBS)

"Some time it's going to line up with a good year and good prices at the same time, then we could quit!" Holker said.

Kidding aside, that's night and day from the past couple of years. In 2013 and 2014, farm fields were soaked by more rain than the ground could handle. When farmers tried to plow or plant, their heavy equipment got mired in mud.

"You need [rain] in July when you don't get it as a rule," Holker said.

While the dry conditions have spring planting far ahead of schedule, there is a slight downside. Moisture will be needed in the coming weeks to help seeds germinate and grow.

"Really, the drought started last August," Assistant State Climatologist Pete Boulay said.

He says that timely rains in May are a strong possibility.

"Looking at the climate prediction center's outlook, looks encouraging, kind of painting a warmer and wetter May for the first half of May, so we'll see if that happens," Boulay said.

Holker says farming is always a crap shoot, of course, but he likes the odds -- as are a lot of dry and dusty farmers.

"I think there probably is, as far as planting conditions. You can't talk to them too much when the first thing they'll bring up is price, then you got to get out of the way (laughs)," Holker said.

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