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Published June 06, 2011, 05:40 AM

Minot economy facing ag hit

Flooding in Minot, N.D., has grabbed headlines and affected businesses. But the wet spring that has prevented many north-central North Dakota farmers from planting their fields will hurt that region’s economy for months to come, says a Minot-based North Dakota State University Extension Service agent.

By: Jonathan Knutson, Agweek

Flooding in Minot, N.D., has grabbed headlines and affected businesses.

But the wet spring that has prevented many north-central North Dakota farmers from planting their fields will hurt that region’s economy for months to come, says a Minot-based North Dakota State University Extension Service agent.

“People just don’t understand what it means,” Mike Rose, Ward County extension agent, says of the unplanted acres, which he estimates at 80 to 85 percent of farmland in the region.

With less grain to harvest and sell, farmers will make less money, ultimately hurting the entire economy of north-central North Dakota, he says.

Production agriculture, or the growing and marketing of plants and livestock, is North Dakota’s leading economic sector, accounting for about 25 of the state’s economic base, according to the North Dakota Department of Agriculture.

State farmers received $5.56 billion for their crops in 2009, the last year for which statistics are available, and $6.7 billion in 2008, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The price of most crops grown in the region currently are at or near record highs, increasing the economic loss from unplanted fields.

Farmers across North Dakota have struggled with wet fields and planting delays this spring, but conditions in the north-central part of the state appear to be particularly bad.

Only 15 to 20 percent of the fields in much of north-central North Dakota have been planted, Rose estimates.

Heavy rains over the long Memorial Day weekend — as much as 3 inches in some areas — makes it extremely unlikely that seed will go into most of the unplanted fields, Rose says.

“This is pothole country. All the potholes are plumb full of water,” he says.

In Renville County, to the north of Ward County, only 10 to 15 percent of farmland has been seeded, estimates LoAyne Voight, county extension agent.

Frequent rains this spring severely limited the amount of time that farmers spent in their fields, she says

“You get going for a day, and then you get an inch of rain,” she says.

About 2½ inches of rain had fallen already-saturated fields as of June 2, making it highly unlikely that planting can resume anytime soon, she says.

Is late planting an option?

If the weather suddenly turned ideal for an extended period, farmers possibly could return to their fields and

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