But with spring planting about to begin, some farmers are busy getting old corn out of the fields.

A wet fall and a late growing season in 2009 resulted in thousands of acres of the crop left unharvested - until now.

"Some guys would joke that, while harvesting corn now, they are pulling the planter behind the combine," said Keith Ripp, a Dane County grain farmer.

"It's always a concern when a crop is left out over the winter," Ripp said.

Wisconsin farmers expect to plant 3.9 million acres of corn this year, about 50,000 more than in 2009, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Nationwide, farmers intend to plant 88.8 million acres of corn, up about 3% from previous years.

They expect to plant 78.1 million acres of soybeans, which, if realized, would result in the largest soybean crop on record, the USDA said.

Some Wisconsin farmers have already started planting corn, although it's about three weeks early for most of the state.

In the Janesville area, some corn will be planted this weekend on light, sandy soil, said Nancy Kavazanjian, spokeswoman for the Wisconsin Corn Growers Association.

"Planting is expected to be heavy this weekend in Illinois, as long as the rain holds off. People had such a bad memory of what happened last year, when the growing season was so short, that they want to get going (early)," Kavazanjian said.

"The longer the growing season you have, the better off your corn will be," she added.

In 2009, the hope for a bountiful harvest was turned into a soggy mess with days of heavy rain in October.

Farmers caught a break in the weather in November, but much of the corn was too wet for grain elevators to accept.

Corn must be dried to about a 15% moisture level before it's used for corn syrup, ethanol and other products.

Last December, there were still lines of trucks waiting to deliver the crop to elevators, partly because the elevators' grain dryers weren't able to keep up with the late surge in the harvest.

Also, the crop failed to reach its potential, resulting in disappointing yields per bushel.

Some farmers left corn standing in the fields over the winter, allowing it to dry but at the risk of cold-weather damage.

That crop came through the winter "fairly well," without much loss in bushels per acre, Ripp said.

Grain prices tumbled after the USDA announced the size of the 2010 crop and because of larger-than-expected stockpiles.

Prices could recover if spring planting is delayed, resulting in a shorter growing season and a less certain crop.

"But if we continue to see good weather and get a few showers, we anticipate an early start," Ripp said.

"A lot of wet spots in the fields have dried up, so we can plant whole fields instead of working around mudholes."