A blizzard threat to Minnesota’s economy


At this writing, a winter snowstorm is bearing down on the Twin Cities and large areas of southern Minnesota are under a blizzard warning. 

Such weather forecasts are never welcome except by the smaller number of people and industries that actually cater to snow and snow removal. The economic costs for most others, however, can be a real hardship.

That is the case this year. The Minnesota office of the National Agricultural Statistics Service said Monday that only 87 percent of this year’s huge corn crop has been harvested. Slow-maturing plants from a cooler-than-normal growing season and wet fields this fall have prevented normal fieldwork, and high moisture in corn intended for storage has had other farmers hold back on combining.

This has consequences for Minnesota’s economy and especially the rural economy. Blizzard conditions will damage corn still standing in fields and make harvesting difficult if not impossible before next spring. Field losses translate into farm income losses, and that spills over on rural economic losses for merchants and everyone else.

How much is at stake? That’s never possible to say before the fact, but look at it this way. The Minnesota corn crop was valued at nearly $4.7 billion last year. Corn prices have been lower this year, and the crop’s value probably would reach $3 billion – if harvested.

That means the approaching storm is a $300-million-or-greater threat to the rural Minnesota economy just on the corn crop alone – before local governments clear roads and job hours and retail sales are lost. What’s more, there are still soybean and sunflower crops left in wet fields, and western Minnesota farmers still have sugar beets to lift from muck and snow.

We had a nice November. We just needed more of it well into December.