Jonathan Knutson / Agweek Staff Writer
Two prominent U.S. wheat groups and both North Dakota U.S. senators say they're pleased that a new trade agreement addresses what they say is unfair treatment of U.S. wheat by Canada. The new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which would replace the existing North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, has an important provision for U.S. wheat growers, say the National Association of Wheat Growers and U.S. Wheat Associates, which promotes U.S. wheat exports around the world.
U.S. agricultural groups are cautiously optimistic about the newly announced United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, but they want to to learn specifics before giving a definitive assessment. For example, the National Association of Wheat Growers and U.S. Wheat Associates say in a joint statement that “they welcome the (Trump) administration’s decision to move ahead with an updated trade deal with Canada and Mexico and look forward to learning more about the details.”
BEACH, N.D. — Farmers in the Beach area worried about moisture going into the 2018 crop season. Cooperative weather allayed those concerns and raised hopes early in the growing season, but a nearly two-month dry stretch undercut what had been a promising crop. At the end of June, "Things were looking good. And then July came, with no rain, and then no rain in August until the 25th — that hurt," says Levi Hall, general manager of Beach Cooperative Grain Co., which serves a wide area of southwestern North Dakota and part of southeastern Montana.
Most U.S. organic food is grown for domestic consumers, not foreign markets. Even so, American organic producers could be eligible for up to $7.2 million in the federal government's Market Facilitation Program, according to a new report. The $12 billion MFP, designed to limit the economic damage to U.S. farmers from retaliatory tariffs, will, among other things, make payments directly to farmers based on this year's harvested production.
WASHBURN, N.D. — Joseph Sheldon had a good job — an agricultural engineer for Caterpillar in Plymouth, Minn., part of the Twin Cities area — but he really wasn't happy. "I tried the big-city life and realized I just wasn't cut out for it. So I was drawn back here," says Sheldon, who in 2011 returned to his hometown of Washburn to begin farming with his family.
The telephone call came from a farmer in his combine. He told me he'd enjoyed my most recent column, which looked at the economic challenges facing Upper Midwest farmers, and said he had a question for me. He mentioned the crop he was harvesting and the price he'll receive for it. Then he asked, "Tell me — I really want to know — is there any way I can make money at that price?" Well, I said, maybe with great yields and if you own the land (avoiding rental payments), you might have a crack at a small profit. Otherwise, nope, no way, not even close.
The Upper Midwest corn and soybean harvest is more advanced than usual, according to a new federal government report. That's not a good thing. Much of the region received little or no rain from the middle of June to the end of August. That accelerated crop development, pushing up harvest but also cutting into potential yields.
Iowa cropland values — sometimes seen as a harbinger of land values elsewhere — have dropped, partly because of concerns over tariffs and trade agreements, according to a new report. Average statewide farmland values fell 1.7 percent to $6,844 from March through September, said the semi-annual report by the Iowa Chapter of the Realtors Land Trends and Values Survey. At its peak in 2013, not long after the 2018-2012 agricultural boom, Iowa farmland sold for an average of $8,750 per acre, according to an earlier report.
WASHBURN, N.D. — Rick Tweeten has been farming since 1986. The Washburn farmer knows all too well that in some growing seasons, the weather just do esn't cooperate. That was the case again this year, despite some promising weeks. "We started off in May with no moisture. Then June had pretty good moisture, and things were looking pretty good," he said. "But then a hailstorm came through (in late June), and Mother Nature turned off the spigot. And we went the other way in a hurry."
CRYSTAL, N.D. — Brian O'Toole ticks off the 10 Southeast Asian and Latin American countries he's visited, some more than once, to promote U.S. wheat exports. O'Toole formerly served as chairman of U.S. Wheat Associates, which develops markets for U.S. wheat around the world, and farms in Crystal, N.D. The trips have given O'Toole personal, front-line experience with foreign customers.