Over 80 percent of the sunflower crop in the country is produced in the Dakotas, and Sen. Kevin Cramer is working to bring improvement to insurance payouts for the crop.

Even in a drought as bad as 2021, sunflower fields across the state are sure to brighten up the landscape.

John Sandbakken, executive director of the National Sunflower Association, said, “The drought was so severe, that even the sunflowers are going to have a little bit of a yield dent. But we’ve had very good reports so far of some of the earlier harvested material, over a ton in a lot of cases.”

However, they are still prone to damage, and many producers utilize insurance for the crop.

Blackbirds have specifically eaten away at some of the sunflowers in Menoken, causing it to look a little less yellow.

Darrell Oswald, of the Menoken Farm, said, “We started to see the birds move in, and they just kind of gradually increased in number and tenacity.”

Although insurance does not cover blackbird deprivation, Sen. John Hoeven has also been working with the Ag Appropriation Committee to fund efforts to control the blackbird population in the Northern Great Plains.

Cramer is also noted the damage caused by the birds.

He said, “The blackbirds would absolutely darken the sky at some points, and when you see that, you know that, while those blackbirds are flying at the moment, they’re usually coming up from usually a sunflower field.”

Damage to one of the more prominent crops in the Dakotas prompted Cramer to spark change in payouts for producers.

The main focus is to separate the two types of sunflower seeds, which are confectionary seeds, used in snack foods, and oil seeds.

Under the current crop insurance plan, sunflowers are looked at as one crop.

Cramer said, “[Let’s] say you need to draw crop insurance on the more expensive, the confectionary. The price that you get for your crop is blended, and that diminishes the value of it. It’s really unfair is what it is, and it really doesn’t make any sense.”

In this case, producers growing oil seeds may have received extra on their payouts, while confectionary seed producers don’t receive the full value of the seeds.

Other crops such as dry bean, dry pea and wheat will be separated by crop type in 2022, and members of congress are calling on the Risk Management Agency to make payments more fair for sunflower producers.

Other North Dakota lawmakers on the letter include Sen. Hoeven and Rep. Kelly Armstrong.

Sandbakken said it’s unclear if this passes how it will impact insurance premiums.