North Dakota Farmers Cope with a Bad Hand Dealt by Mother Nature

Nov 10, 2017  | 4 min  | Ep4312

As hard as you work to manage your risk you are still at the beck-and-call of the three disaster muses - fire, flood and drought. Many places across the U.S. have stories to tell, but farmers in the Peace Garden state had a reversal of fortune where weather is concerned.

@TVTorpy reports in our Cover Story.

For farmers in the High Plains, the most plentiful commodity produced in 2017 was unwanted weather patterns. Extreme drought, late season rains, and abnormally cool weather plagued North Dakota farmers and ranchers this year.

As corn, dry edible beans, and other grains were being planted this spring, rain stopped coming to portions of central and western areas of the state, and didn’t return for several weeks. By early June, 44 out of North Dakota’s 52 counties were impacted by drought with 11 reaching D4 - the U.S. Drought Monitor’s designation for exceptional drought.

With little to no rain falling at a time when the state normally receives almost half of its annual rainfall, row crops in western and southern parts of the state suffered. Doug Goerhing is North Dakota’s Agriculture Commissioner.

Doug Goerhing, North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner: “We had producers and even on our own farm we harvested three bushel barley – that’s devastating. Thirty bushel wheat and forty bushel barley still won't pay the bills. /There are a lot of questions about how much, uh, small grains, whether its wheat, barley, oats, and Durham, got rolled up in a bale./ But I believe we could probably say more than a half-million acres, and maybe over a million acres ended up getting rolled up.”

The same dry conditions plaguing row crop farmers also hit cattle producers. Much of this year’s spring grasses never materialized on pastureland. Hay donations from across were placed in a lottery system by the North Dakota Department of Agriculture and North Dakota State University Extension to help cattle producers meet feed needs. By the time much needed rain did begin to fall, only late season grasses arrived. While the feed source was a welcome sight, there was just enough to go around.

Doug Goerhing, North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner: “It was enough that producers didn't necessarily have to keep dispersing herds. But they still had to think about what was going to happen going into this winter, in the spring. Which meant they're still trying to access and source forage and move it back home.”

The late season rains and cooler temperatures proved to be both a blessing and a curse for farmers. Soybean producers watched pods fill thanks to the late summer rain, adding unexpected yields at harvest time.

For corn growers, the late arrival of moisture and cooler temperatures hampered harvest.

 Doug Goerhing, North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner: “With 54 different Commodities that we produce in this state I will never say that rain was a bad thing, but it wasn't necessarily helpful either. Other than our ability to store some moisture going into next year. And at this point a lot of people are just hoping for next year.”

And the frustration continues for those already behind due to inclement weather. Earlier this week, snow fall of 6 to 12 inches across the Peace Garden State halted harvest 2017 in its tracks, leaving more than half of some commodities stuck in the field.  


For Market to Market, I’m John Torpy

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