Britton, S.D., area hopes to cut prevent plant participation

BRITTON, S.D. -- With the calendar slipping toward mid-May, farmers in northeast South Dakota are getting a bit jittery to get the 2011 crop in the field and growing.

BRITTON, S.D. -- With the calendar slipping toward mid-May, farmers in northeast South Dakota are getting a bit jittery to get the 2011 crop in the field and growing.

"It's not panic mode yet, but I suppose we're about 10 days to two weeks from that," says Ehren Grupe, chief operations officer for Full Circle Ag Cooperative at Britton, S.D., the center of some of last year's most difficult planting conditions.

Gearing up to go

"The calendar says May 1 so we need to get going," he says. "Last week, we had low temps and this week, it's no heat wave, but they're looking at the calendar and saying, 'we need to be going."

Grupe says producers still are hoping prevent plant insurance policies may not be as prevalent as last year, when half of the acres in the Full Circle region went unplanted. Almost everyone was able to plant in the co-op's eastern edge, but up to 90 percent went unplanted in South Dakota's Britton, Hecla, Groton, Pierpont and Langford areas.


Full Circle crews are working to get fertilizer out the door and delivered to farmers.

With road conditions and swollen potholes, deliveries often are twice the miles as in normal conditions. Co-op Terra-gators are working "twice as hard on half the acres, constantly turning around," he says.

Grupe says input prices are higher than last year -- 12 to 15 percent for fertilizer, 30 percent for fuel, chemicals about the same. Seed prices are pretty stable. The increases are relatively low in on comparison with crop and livestock prices, and more proportional than they were in 2008 and 2009 crops.

Getting in the ground

Corn and soybeans will be going in at about the same time. He thinks a third of the beans probably will be planted while the farmers still are planting corn. At the current pace, he thinks it's likely the soybean planting will go beyond the June 15 crop insurance planting deadline. The date for corn is May 25.

"There's been a little discussion on changing maturity (for beans) but the biggest challenge is that the elite genetics may not be available. The 'go-anywhere' top genetics -- flexibly adapted to wetter ground of varying fertility -- are committed. Seed suppliers have early-day hybrids but they're not going to be the cream of the crop, so farmers are going to have to be selective on where they place them on the farms."

Grupe expects the primary order changes for soybean seed likely will be treatments that help protect crops from phytophthora root rot, which is likely to set in when soils warm up. He says a high percentage of Full Circle's seed already gets a treatment, but it's going to be prevalent this year and will offer a good return on investment.

Cattle producers in the area are taking their herds to pasture earlier because of wet conditions, getting the animals onto higher ground. But this also will add stress on calves, which may be offset with a creep feeding program.


To survive, farmers need better field drainage and appropriate management of the James River watershed.

He says a cost-benefit analysis should put the region's agricultural and wildlife economics in perspective, and then determine the solutions, costs and funding sources for long-term solutions.

Mikkel Pates is an agricultural journalist, creating print, online and television stories for Agweek magazine and Agweek TV.
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