The dust billowed and the blades rolled on a recent afternoon as John Ledermann of Brandon harvested his 2020 soybean crop.

Like many farmers, Ledermann was sounding optimistic about this year's harvest. Yields were up a bit over last year, prices are above $9 a bushel, and his crops are drying well enough that he expects to save about $10,000 to $15,000 on drying costs this year.

"The last couple of years, especially for corn, the drying costs have been high," he said.

Over the past few years of poor soybean prices, he had delayed purchasing a new storage bin and newer equipment. But that might change for him this year, and other local farmers might follow suit.

“Farmers are normally quick to invest the profit back into their farms," said Russ Elliott, president of the Douglas County Corn and Soybean Growers. "There’s a lot of things they’ve put off replacing in the last few years. I would look to see purchases over this winter.”

Newsletter signup for email alerts

Soybean harvest is way ahead this year versus last year, according to the USDA Minnesota Crop Progress and Condition Report. Last year at this time, 7% of the soybean crop was harvested, while 31% has been harvested so far this year.

Most of Douglas County is in a swath of Minnesota considered abnormally dry, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. While that helps to dry crops for storage, it can also damage soybeans and disqualify them from selling for seed or human consumption. They could still be used for animal feed, but they would fetch a lower price.

Brian Denny, location manager for Pro-Ag Farmers Elevator in Parkers Prairie, said farmers started bringing soybeans in about two weeks ago. He said they have seem satisfied with their yield, and that the quality was pretty good.

Pro-Ag was paying $9.36 per bushel Monday, Denny said.

China has promised to buy U.S. soybeans, which has driven prices up.

“It brings us from a loss to a positive," Elliott said. "It makes us profitable and it really was a pretty quick rally. It happened pretty fast.”