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Dave Olson, Published March 04 2013

Value of North Dakota crops nearly doubles in 2012

FARGO - North Dakota farm fields were golden last year, with the total value of crops reaching a historic high of almost $11 billion and seven crops setting individual value records.

The previous record for total production value was about $7.5 billion in 2010.

In 2011, the total value of crops produced in North Dakota was about $6 billion.

One of the North Dakota crops that set a production value record was corn at $2.9 billion.

Jerry Melvin, who has farmed near Buffalo in western Cass County since about 1969, said 2011 and 2012 were good to him and he’s optimistic 2013 will follow suit, though he said even the best plans can be undermined by weather extremes.

As in past years, Melvin plans to plant corn as part of his farm’s mix of crops. He has doubts the rest of the country will be as big on corn as it has been, in part because strengthening cotton prices could entice some farmers to switch.

Wet conditions that prevented millions of farm acres from being planted was the main difference between 2011 and 2012, said Darin Jantzi, director of the North Dakota field office of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Ag Statistics Service.

“We had 5.6 million acres that didn’t go in the ground (in 2011) because of all of our flooding problems in the northwestern part of the state and almost the whole northern part of the state,” Jantzi said.

Drier conditions prevailed in North Dakota in 2012, he said, adding that the state has largely escaped the arid conditions plaguing many areas of the Upper Midwest.

“Compared to a lot of states south of us, the drought isn’t as bad,” Jantzi said.

North Dakota’s relatively dry and warm winter of 2011-2012 allowed farmers to start fieldwork last March 2, 34 days earlier than the 2011 starting date of May 7 and 22 days ahead of the five-year average, Jantzi said.

While there have been heavy snows this winter, Jantzi doesn’t expect they will adversely affect spring fieldwork.

“It’s good from the standpoint of moisture, being it was a little dry last year,” he said.

“It could delay (planting) a little bit, but we still have a little time for it to melt and get into the ground,” Jantzi said. If temperatures reach the 30s as they are expected to later this week, “that snow will melt fast,” he said.


Individual crops setting record-high values in North Dakota in 2012 were:

•Corn, $2.9 billion.

•Soybeans, $2.3 billion.

•Spring wheat, $2.2 billion.

•Canola, $540 million.

•Dry beans, $420 million

The following crops saw their second-highest values of production ever in 2012:

•Barley, $404 million.

•All sunflowers, $377 million.

•Oil sunflowers, $336 million.

One crop that gets a lot of attention is corn, but it’s uncertain how many acres will be planted this year, according to Jantzi.

He said nationwide there is talk that 90 million to 100 million acres of corn could be planted, but there are so many factors for growers to consider it is hard to say what the numbers will be.

Jantzi said his agency is collecting information from area growers on what they expect to plant this year and a report will be issued at the end of the month.

Sunflowers like it dry

When it comes to sunflowers, Red River Commodities in Fargo contracts with growers to make sure the company has the seeds it needs for its various divisions, said Bob Majkrzak, president and CEO.

He said last year’s dry conditions were excellent for sunflowers.

“We kind of like drier weather and that was very beneficial for us,” Majkrzak said.

Red River Commodities uses seeds in a number of ways:

One division accepts material from farmers and gets it ready for more processing. Another buys and bags seeds for wild birds.

A third division takes material from the company’s processing division and roasts it, adds salt and flavor, and packages the result for a number of different companies.

A fourth division turns sunflower kernels into SunButter, which the company markets as an alternative to peanut butter.

Majkrzak said the right moisture conditions during the growing season are critical to seed quality and seed quality is critical to the company.

“It’s really important to have nice quality,” he said. “It maintains the demand very, very well for the product and that’s pretty important to us.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555