The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported Monday afternoon that the 2011 corn harvest is 15 percent complete, one percentage point below the five-year average, but lower than last year’s harvest by 11 points.

At the same time, the corn condition is rated at 80 percent fair-to-excellent.

 “This is such an important and busy time for our growers,” said National Corn Growers Association President Bart Schott, who farms near Kulm, N.D.

“I know a lot of us are looking to make the most of what has been a very challenging year, and we’re proud to be on track to bring home what the USDA estimates to be the third-largest crop ever produced.”

Schott noted some of the many challenges growers experienced, from floods to drought. While the Southern states have nearly finished their harvests, some of them — notably, Texas — were especially hard-hit this year.

At the same time, Schott himself reports one of the best crops he has had in a long time. In North Dakota, 60 percent of the crops are rated good or excellent.

North Dakota also is the one state the USDA reports has not begun to harvest to a recordable degree, but that is not unusual for this time of year.

Three states are ahead of the average on their harvests: Kansas, at 42 percent harvested; Missouri, at 50 percent harvested; and North Carolina, at 82 percent harvested.

Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania, three states that had late planting issues, are the most behind the average in their harvesting.

“At harvest, some growers are seeing the effects of weather and climate on the growing season, while others are seeing the impact of having to plant later in the spring than usual,” Schott said.

“While conditions vary throughout the country, resilience, dedication and hope are universal traits of the American corn farmer.”

Click here for the USDA crop progress report for Sept. 26.