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Cory Johnson, 52, farms with his wife, Kayla, and two brothers east of Rugby, N.D. The farm has been dry but picked up a six-tenths of an inch of rain on Aug. 12 — good news for soybeans and a slight delay for the start of wheat harvest. Photo taken Aug. 7, 2019, at Rugby, N.D. Mikkel Pates / Agweek

Rugby farm set to harvest above-average wheat

RUGBY, N.D. — Cory Johnson farms and his family on the verge of the 2019 grain harvest in north-central North Dakota. The family raises mostly wheat and canola, but also soybeans and a little corn.

Cory, 52, joined the farm in 1990. He farms with brothers Scott, 59, and Kipp, 48, Their father, LeRoy, had been in the International Harvester implement business in the 1960s and 1970s. The family has operated out of this place since 1971 at the townsite of Fero that functioned from 1905 to 1942.

Cory and his wife, Kayla, have high school and college-age children who help with harvest and may one day return to the farm. "It's actually looking like a little bit above-average up here," Cory said in an Aug. 7 visit.

It had been "super-dry" earlier and the early-planted wheat could have used a drink in May and early June. It rebounded after some nice rains in mid- to late-June. "Now, we're getting kind of dry again. We need a shot of rain, soon." The farm got 0.6 inches on Aug. 12 and 13, so he hoped that would revive some of the soybean prospects. They expected to start harvesting wheat as soon as Wednesday, Aug. 14.

Wheat yields appear to be average to above-average. Later-seeded wheat fields benefited from the June rains more than the early-planted wheat. The family sometimes uses glyphosate on some acres as a dessicant to help even out maturity for harvest.

The soybean crop had good height but were starting to wilt at midday on sandier soils. The rain helped them rebound. Corn was filling.

Canola appear to be delivering a decent yield. Last year's crop was affected by excessive winds that raised havoc on swaths. "We're going to straight-cut all our canola this year because of that," he said. The advent of pod shatter-resistant canola has helped considerably.

The family in the past has gone half-and-half with straight-cutting or swathing canola.

The biggest disappointment is poor commodity prices, Cory said.

For now, farmers are signing up for Market Facilitation Program payments to compensate for tariff retaliation in a trade war. "I would much rather get it at the elevator than at the FSA (Farm Service Agency)," he says. "Hopefully things get resolved there, and get these prices back to where they were a couple of years ago."

He said he's "50-50 confident" that Congress can work with the administration to get things resolved.

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