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Published January 03, 2012, 10:54 AM

2011: A wet, wild year in ag

Every year is unique for farmers and ranchers on the Northern Plains, but 2011 was one of the most memorable years in recent memory.

By: Jonathan Knutson, Agweek

2011: A wet, wild year in ag

Every year is unique for farmers and ranchers on the Northern Plains, but 2011 was one of the most memorable years in recent memory. The rain-soaked spring that prevented millions of acres from being planted is particularly hard to forget. Following are some other notable events and issues from the past year.

January:

Attention grows on what experts say is the overuse of glyphosate, a widely used herbicide. Farmers in this region already have seen problems. Read the full story.

Sheep industry officials in the Upper Midwest say strong lamb prices are encouraging more young people to start their own flocks.

February:

A ferocious price rally that began in 2010 pushes wheat prices to more than $10 per bushel. Prices of other crops also soar. Read the full story.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture approves Roundup Ready sugar beets for planting in 2011. The organic food industry strongly opposes Roundup Ready beets.

March:

High crop prices help lead to better-than-usual crop insurance coverage for spring-planted crops.

A controversial Veblen, S.D.-based dairy juggernaut, consisting of businesses associated with Rick Millner, continues to make news. In March, one of the Millner-associated dairies, Veblen West Dairy, is sold. Read the full story.

April:

It rains. A lot. Planting is delayed.

Tom Grabanski, a Grafton, N.D., farmer facing a number of legal and financial difficulties, appears in a court hearing in Fargo, N.D. Grabanski’s story attracts wide interest because it covers many states and includes several partners and creditors. Read the full story.

May:

It continues to rain, and planting concerns grow. By mid-May, only 15 percent of North Dakota is planted, compared with the five-year average of 68 percent.

Farmers in the Devils Lake (N.D.) Basin face what’s probably their worst growing season ever. Winter snows and heavy spring rains further swell the long-rising Devils Lake, submerging even more fields and rural roads. Read the full story.

June:

Rain continues, and area farmers run out of time to finish planting. Federal ag officials estimate that 6.3 million acres aren’t planted in North Dakota. It’s a statewide problem, but the northwestern part of the state is hit especially hard. Ward County leads the state with an estimated 576,000 unplanted acres. By one estimate, Ward County farmers lost about $107 million because of the unplanted acres. Read the full story.

The National Potato Council holds its annual summer meeting in Grand Forks, N.D. Justin Dagen, a Karlstad, Minn., farmer is president of the group, which normally holds its summer meeting near the home of that year’s president. Potato officials are upset by a USDA proposal to reduce the amount of spud that can be served in school cafeterias. Read the full story.

Floodwaters from the Souris and Missouri rivers hurt countless agribusinesses in North Dakota and South Dakota.

July:

North Dakota State University shows off its $3.3 million Beef Cattle Research Complex, one of only four of its caliber in North America.

August:

North Dakota, traditionally the nation’s leading barley producer, falls from the top spot. Other crops have become more profitable for state farmers to raise. Read the full story.

Pastures and hayland across most of the region are unusually lush, thanks to heavy rains in the spring and early summer.

Moorhead, Minn.-based American Crystal Sugar locks out 1,300 workers.

September:

Warm, dry weather allows farmers to begin harvesting late-planted crops. The Canadian harvest also cruises.

October:

Early frost hurts some of the region’s row crops. But fall weather generally is warm and dry, allowing rapid harvest progress.

Mitch Barthel of Perham, Minn., wins the regional championship in the Livestock Marketing Association’s regional quarterfinals in Dickinson, N.D.

MF Global, a major broker of agricultural futures and options, goes bankrupt after losing big off its bets on European debt.

November:

Farmland rental rates continue to rise. Rates for some expiring contracts increase by an average of 20 percent, according to some estimates. Read the full story.

The North Dakota Farmers Union and North Dakota Farm Bureau both elect new presidents. Eugene “Woody” Barth takes over the Farmers Union, while Doyle Johannes becomes president of the Farm Bureau.

Warm, dry weather continues, and the area harvest wraps up early. Area farmers, many of whom struggled with long, drawn-out harvests in previous years, spend a little quality time with family and friends.

Government legislation to abolish the Canadian Wheat Board’s seven-decade monopoly on grain marketing passes Canada’s House of Commons. The Canadian Wheat Board later says it will file a lawsuit to stop the bill.

December:

The American Crystal Sugar lockout remains unresolved. Both Crystal Sugar and Minn-Dak Farmers Cooperative, the Wahpeton, N.D.-based sugar beet cooperative, report disappointing yields but record per-ton payments. Read the full story.

Because the fall was so dry, much of the region is in low-level drought — quite a change from the excessively wet conditions that marked most of the year.

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