Many Minnesota farmers are ahead of the game this spring and were planting crops last week.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimated Monday that the state's corn planting is now 45 percent complete, two weeks ahead of the five-year average and four days ahead of last year.

The agency reported that this is the second-highest amount of corn planted by this date on record, behind 2010.

Noah Hultgren, president of the Minnesota Corn Growers Association, said that about 60 percent of the corn has now been planted in the Willmar area near his farm. "The earlier the better," he said. "It helps the crop progress and grow faster so that we're able to harvest it early enough."

Hultgren said that several days of warm weather during the past couple of weeks have raised soil temperatures to the point that planting corn is possible, and that many producers will probably be able to plant soybeans soon, too.

Last year's early planting, followed by timely rains during the growing season and a moderate fall, helped produce record yields of both corn and soybeans in the state.

In recent years, more than 15 million acres in Minnesota have been planted with either corn or soybeans.

Crop progress estimates are issued weekly and are based on reports from agricultural professionals in each county who fill out surveys. After plants emerge, the reports also include information about the overall condition of various commodities.

The latest report also indicated that sugar beet planting is 73 percent complete, more than three weeks ahead of average, and that farmers were beginning to plant soybeans in the central and southern parts of the state.

Small grain seeding also continues to be well ahead of normal, with spring wheat planting at 46 percent complete, two weeks ahead of average.

Oat acreage is 68 percent planted, nearly three weeks ahead of average.

The report also indicated that topsoil moisture supplies as of April 24 were rated 74 percent adequate across the state, and subsoil moisture was at 79 percent adequate. Those numbers were current as of Sunday, and do not include rains that swept across the state on Monday.