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Austin Sundeen, a fourth generation farmer in the Brocket, N.D. area, stands on the steps of his tractor while planting seed on Monday, May 15, 2017. Despite a late start due to excess soil moisture, Sundeen estimated he had completed half of his planting. (Nick Nelson/Agweek)

Playing catch-up: ND farmer busy with planting

BROCKET, N.D. — Austin Sundeen is a little short on sleep. But that's a good thing: The Brocket, N.D., farmer has taken advantage of favorable weather to catch up, or nearly so, on most of his planting.

"We've put in half the farm since Wednesday (five days before Agweek's visit)," Sundeen says.

"We haven't slept since Wednesday, either," he adds with a chuckle.

The busy stretch was especially welcome because of the slow planting start this spring. A rainy stretch last fall saturated the ground, already affected by the multi-year wet cycle that's hit the Brocket area.

The Sundeen farmstead is a stone's throw from Brocket, population of about 50. The town is in Ramsey County, in north-central North Dakota. Sundeen has farmland in Ramsey, as well as adjacent Nelson and Walsh countries.

Sundeen says a farming acquaintance in northwest Minnesota had told him about excellent planting conditions there earlier this spring. That was a little frustrating, given his previous planting difficulties, he says.

But the five days of sustained planting have put him back on track, Sundeen says.

Sundeen was hoping to finish planting his corn on the warm, sunny mid-May day of Agweek's visit. He also raises pinto beans, canola, wheat and barley.

Canola is big

Canola plays a big role in Sundeen's world. His wife, Kristie, is a national InVigor sales lead and Bayer field representative. InVigor are Canola hybrids from Bayer.

North Dakota is the nation's leading canola producer. The crop is most popular in north-central North Dakota.

Kristie's off-farm job is important financially, especially because it provides health insurance for the family, which includes children ages 7 and 5, Austin Sundeen says.

"Without the health insurance, it would be tough to do what we're doing. A lot of people out there are struggling with that (securing affordable health insurance)," he says.

Always wanted to farm

Sundeen, 32, is a fourth-generation farmer. His father, Randy, farms as well.

Austin says he always wanted to farm. He's been doing it full time since 2007. In most of those 10 years, he's fought excess moisture.

"I almost wouldn't mind a drought to dry things out," he says. "I think just about anybody in this area would."

If the weather continues to cooperate, Sundeen should be finished planting by the end of May. In his experience, getting in the crop before June is important.

"If you don't have it in by then, yields really suffer," he says.

Given poor crop prices, well-above-average yields will be needed to finish in the black this year, Sundeen says, echoing what most others in Upper Midwest ag are saying.

"We have a tough time making anything pencil (show a profit) right now," he says.

But he's encouraged by his recent planting progress.

"It's been a busy five days,' he says with a smile. "And we hope to stay busy until we're finished (with planting)."