Planting Into Uncertainty

North Dakota’s number one crop for the past couple of years is facing hard times.
The price for soybeans has plunged more than 20% in the past year – undercut by trade uncertainty with China, and an outbreak of African Swine Flu lowering worldwide demand for the crop.
As Jim Olson shows us in the Rugby area, the result is a spring season filled with angst for farmers and elevators.

(Steve Fritel, Pierce County Farmer) “I’m guessing we might be shut down.”

Planting came to a halt as rain moved through the Rugby area. But Steve Fritel isn’t complaining.

(Steve Fritel, Pierce County Farmer) “Rain’s always welcome.”

What’s usually the biggest unknown in farming – the weather – has been a lot more reliable this year than the prices for the crops farmers are planting.

(Steve Fritel, Pierce County Farmer) “It’s been a roller coaster.”

Steve Fritel says the plunging price of soybeans – they’re worth less now than any time in the past several years – is of concern, but the latest drop in the past week has come too late to make any major planting changes.

(Steve Fritel, Pierce County Farmer) “You can’t  always make wholesale changes on a given year because you’ll run into a problem the following year so we try to stay closer with our rotations because, in the long run, that’s still the best thing to do.”
(Cameron Erickson,  Rugby Farmers Elevator) “We need those guys to show some black ink at the end of the year. 

At the Rugby Farmers Elevator, manager Cam Erickson says soybeans, wheat, corn, they’re all at a low point right now – and this region can’t fall back on the oil industry to pump up the economy.

(Cameron Erickson,  Rugby Farmers Elevator) “We’re in Pierce County. We’re not in the Bakken boom. We never have been in the Bakken boom. So we’re going to live and die with agriculture and we need that to improve, there’s no question.”

Erickson says reestablishing soybean sales to China would do wonders for ag’s outlook – and Fritel agrees.

(Steve Fritel, Pierce County Farmer) “We’ve got to get some things straightened out with our trade in the short term it’s challenging there’s no doubt. But I think in the long term if we can hang in there it’ll benefit us. I hope in the meantime a lot of markets don’t get wrecked because exports are important for North Dakota for all the crops we raise.”

Meanwhile, he’s hoping to finish planting soybeans and edible beans by the end of the month to put him on schedule for the year.
In Pierce County, Jim Olson, KX News.

The USDA reports that, as of March, North Dakota farmers intend on planting more spring wheat than soybeans this year – moving wheat back into the number one spot in the state.

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