The historic drought gripping North Dakota and the Great Plains has been extremely challenging for farmers.
From lack of hay feed to stunted and dried-up commodity crops. A valid concern: is this drought an outlier pattern or is this a glimpse of what could become the new normal?
For this week’s KX Ag and Energy Insight, we talk with a Washburn farmer about how the recent rain will and will not benefit his operation.
Joe Sheldon operates a 4,500-acre farm just north of Washburn. He grows spring-wheat, soybean, pinto bean, and corn.
Sheldon was fortunate to harvest his spring-wheat two weeks ago before the recent rain. He says the quality of his wheat harvest was high, with good color and high protein. There just was not enough bushels.
Sheldon says his soybeans are stressed but they’re not beyond hope, they’re not completely brown yet. The recent rain could definitely help with some of his later maturing soybean strands. He says it should help with pod fill.
“I think the soybeans will definitely benefit, possibly some corn will benefit from a shot of rain. But, there are some areas of our farm that are probably beyond repair, but still, if you can get some rain on the ground and in the soil to calm the dust then change the cycle we’re in, we absolutely will take it at any time,” explained Sheldon.
Sheldon says high commodity prices are the saving grace this year because they will reflect in crop insurance payouts for many farmers suffering yield loss. He told KX that the rain situation can change in a hurry in North Dakota, pointing to the extremely wet fall of 2019.
In other news, two weeks ago, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced that the USDA is investing $167 million in twelve states for rural broadband. North Dakota is one of those states.
NTCA: The Rural Broadband Association’s CEO Shirley Bloomfield says private companies will be applying for that USDA money. Additionally, North Dakota will receive $100 million in the bipartisan infrastructure bill to help provide broadband coverage, including providing access to the at least 19,800 North Dakotans who currently lack it, according to a White House fact sheet.
Bloomfield told KX that North Dakota actually has one of the highest penetrations of fiber optics in the entire nation because independent community-based telecommunications providers started installing fiber infrastructure 20-years ago.
Now, Bloomfield says ensuring the final gaps are connected so that everyone in the state is connected should be an important priority for state lawmakers.
“A lot of the COVID relief that came down from the Federal Government goes to the state, it will literally be up to Governor Burgum to really help put the emphasis on the funding to build those broadband networks, so I think the state will have a really important role in making some very key decisions,” explained Bloomfield.
Bloomfield says installing broadband in North Dakota is expensive to install because of the state’s vast areas with low population density. She says it costs between $18 to $25,000 per mile in the state.