Wet spring means eastern North Dakota farm may use prevented planting on 22% of acres

A farmer near Valley City, North Dakota, in a 3,500-acre partnership doesn’t expect to plant more than 800 acres because of lateness. A possible change in crop insurance deadlines could affect decisions.

A 30-something farmer in a ball cap and sunglasses plants soybeans in a John Deere tractor, flanked by a two-acre pond in a field that had been planted last year.
Riley Adams, a co-owner of T&A Farms with partner, Mark Thomsen, was on his farm’s first day planting soybeans on May 26, 2022, west of Valley City, North Dakota. Adams said late planting due to a cold, wet April, followed by 15 inches of rain, will mean about one-fourth of his acres may not be planted this year. In the background is a pond that he farmed last year -- but not in 2022. Photo taken May 26, 2022.
Mikkel Pates / Agweek
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VALLEY CITY, N.D. — Riley Adams predicts that about 800 acres of a 3,500-acre wheat, corn and soybean farm near Valley City is unlikely to be planted in 2022. If true, that could mean a 22% prevented-planting insurance assessment.

Riley Adams, a partner in T&A Farms, had only started planting soybeans on May 26, when Agweek stopped to chat. The farm business is named for its partners — Mark Thomsen and Adams. Adams, 31, started working with Thomsen six years ago, and became a partner three years ago. Adams grew up with the Thomsen children, who took other careers. Adams went to college for agronomy, at North Dakota State College of Science in Wahpeton, North Dakota, and got a bachelor’s degree in the fall of 2013.

A John Deere tractor and planter come over a hill on a farm near ValleyCity, North Dakota.
Riley Adams does another round in the terrain west of Valley City, North Dakota, on May 26, 2022. It was his first day seeding soybeans.
Mikkel Pates / Agweek

T&A Farms finished planting wheat on May 26, 2022. The word “finished” is a relative term. They will plant only about three-fourths of their expected wheat acres.

Similarly, they planted their last corn of the season on May 25, 2022, completing only half of what they expected to plant. Their big goal was covering production that is under contract.

Last fall, the farm received some welcome rains. Encouraged, the farm applied a lot of fertilizer last fall. But from mid-April into May the farm had received about 15 inches of rain.


A tractor and  planter move across a field, planting soybeans, flanked by a gleaming grain elevator across the hill.
Riley Adams’ tractor and planter rig makes its way across the countryside, flanked by the Columbia Grain elevator west of Valley City, North Dakota, on May 26, 2022.
Mikkel Pates / Agweek

“Granted, it rebuilt our soil moisture, but this spring it overdid it,” Adams said.

The main push was to get crops planted on the acres that had the fall-applied fertilizer.

“A couple (fields), they’re not worth it. We can’t get to it, it’s too wet,” he said. “Now, it’s get what we can get in by insurance (deadline) dates. Now, (it’s) put beans in the ground until we can’t go.”

Weather obstacles are a “guessing game,” he said.

More rain coming

Rain was predicted for the Memorial Day weekend. Adams planted another 500 acres of soybeans but picked up another 2 inches of rain. He thought there may be some hope for the first two weeks in June, but those forecasts turned cool and wet. There have been rumors about the federal government extending crop insurance deadlines, but Adams’ insurance agent hasn’t confirmed anything.

Late-planted corn usually means a later harvest, he said. The farm had shifted to shorter-season varieties to avoid maturity problems.

A farmer kneels to check soybean seed depth behind his John Deere planterat left.
Farmer Riley Adams of Valley City, North Dakota, checks soybean seed depth while planting his first field of the crop on May 26, 2022.
Mikkel Pates / Agweek

“We don’t have a dryer, so we’re really dependent on Mother Nature for drying corn down,” Adams said. Late planting also can mean non-mature corn. In 2019, the partners planted corn at the normal time but it wasn’t mature when winter weather set in. They harvested most of it into December 2019 and January 2020, but they had to leave their headlands unharvested.

A smiling 31-year-old farmer with a beard  and a ball cap stops for a face photo while planting soybeans.
Riley Adams, 31, has been a partner in T&A Farms of Valley City, North Dakota, for about three years. Photo taken May 26, 2022.
Mikkel Pates / Agweek

‘The last corn to come off was, I think, on June 10 (2020) — with the planter right behind the combine,” he said, and added, “We don’t want another year like that.”

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