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With corn harvest late this year, the dryer was running round the clock much of December before finishing around the first of the year.

Corn drying to the new year

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The cold, wet fall pushed this season's corn harvest back well into the winter, and what's still standing in snow-covered fields is likely to stay until spring.

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The corn farmers were able to harvest came rolling into the Leaf River Ag bins in New York Mills in November and kept the new dryer humming through Christmas.

Doug Weller runs the plant, and with steam rising continuously from the dryer, gravity boxes lined up as farmers looked to get their corn moisture-tested in late November and December.

Drying started around deer hunting opener in November and Weller said they dried about 200,000 bushels in one month. The corn was then either shipped out by semi loads, stored, or added to a grain bank.

Weller has run the Mills plant for 11 years, taking over for Alden Selander, a man from whom Weller learned "all his traits."

With corn drying normally done by Thanksgiving, this was an odd year with the drying not wrapping up until around the first of the year. It was simply too wet for farmers to harvest corn.

Weller said it hasn't been good for farmers the last four years, but at the same time the Leaf River plant is looking at a good year. The new corn dryer installed this year more than doubled the capacity of the old dryer-from 500 bushels to 1,100 bushels-allowing for Leaf River to take on more corn drying business.

At 30 percent moisture corn, the new dryer can handle 500 bushels per hours, and at 25 percent about 900 bushels an hour, Weller said.

During peak operation the dryer was running 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It's a natural gas dryer, and to put things in perspective, the November natural gas and electricity bill was $26,000 for the NY Mills facility.

An estimated 5 percent of the state's corn crop remains to be harvested, with a total value about $200 million. Farmers hope to harvest the remaining corn this spring and still salvage some profit. How well their fields make it through the winter will be important for the state's corn industry, a roughly $4 billion annual business.

Drying costs farmers an estimated $100 an acre.

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