Late harvest makes for slow farm show

FARGO, N.D. -- The Northern Ag Expo typically is the first big indoor winter farm show -- after the harvest. In 2009, the Fargo, N.D., show came with more than half of the region's corn crop still in the field.

FARGO, N.D. -- The Northern Ag Expo typically is the first big indoor winter farm show -- after the harvest. In 2009, the Fargo, N.D., show came with more than half of the region's corn crop still in the field.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's weekly crop harvest report Nov. 29 says only 40 percent of North Dakota's corn was in the bin by that date. Farmers attending or even exhibiting at the Northern Ag Expo were abuzz with discussions about how many acres of corn -- and even soybeans --still were in the field, and how long it will be before they'll come out.

Generally, exhibitors seemed upbeat, despite the fact that many of their conversations were vendor-to-vendor.

Simplot Grower Solutions officials in the region say they've been remarkably successful getting fall fertilizer custom applications done in the region, even though much of it had to be done after Nov. 1.

Sonny Christianson, Simplot Grower Solutions area manager based in Langdon, N.D., and Al Wimpfheimer, operations manager from East Grand Forks, Minn., say their territory stretches from the Canadian border to Beresford, S.D., except for a stretch from 20 miles south of Fargo to the South Dakota border.


"There were a lot of logistics for us, having to move equipment around to where field conditions improved. We put on a lot of extra miles this year," Wimpfheimer says. "Actually, it's turned out to be a very normal fall for product use -- a dead ringer for 2006."

Other than the still-unharvested fields -- particularly in the Fargo and Moorhead, Minn., area, and in Richland County, N.D. -- much of the application was able to happen in November.

"But harvest was the first priority, as it should be," Christianson says.

Looking ahead, seed company officials were mixed about how soon farmers would be booking their seed needs for 2010.

Terry Goerger, president of Goerger Seed & Supply Co., grows and contracts for seed sold under the Gold Country brand. He says half of his production of soybeans for seed had been harvested as of Dec. 1.

Beans in the field were running 17.3 percent moisture on Dec. 2 and need to be dried to 13.5 percent to store and sell. But when growing them for seed, the beans must be "slow-dried," meaning that the drier temperature can't be more than 15 degrees higher than the ambient air temperature.

This year, Goerger purchased a couple of electric coil heating attachment that delivers 9,000 watts, hooked on the fan and warms the air by 15 degrees. He used one for about three weeks and then had another of the $750 devices was delivered to him at the booth at the show.

"And you don't want the humidity below 40 percent, or you'll harm the germination," he says.


Normally, a 2,500-bushel bin can be dried in five or six days, but now he's thinking drying could run for another 45 to 50

Seed deals wait

Seed bookings are progressing at different paces, depending whether companies are selling in areas where harvest is complete.

Keith Peltier, president and general manager of Proseed, a North Dakota-based distributor of canola, sunflower, corn, soybean and alfalfa, says he expects farmers again will delay their seed purchase decisions.

"They usually don't like to do anything until after the harvest," he says.

Seed bookings typically start in September and about 70 percent to 80 percent of the business is done by January.

The 2009 crop still is the biggest concern.

Gary Ihry of Ihry Insurance Co. in Hope, N.D., says farmers still are waiting for a reassurance from the Risk Management Agency's insurance deadline is Dec. 10, but he hopes accounts will be left "open" on a case-by-case basis. This would allow the insurance company to authorize additional time for harvesting the crop and settling claims.


Mike Kozojed, one of his associates and a farm harvesting corn in Hillsoro, N.D., says he thinks the program will be managed similar to a year ago. He says he thinks most farmers have the technology to provide sufficient yield data and moisture levels, should they be eligible for the SURE program, but that it probably will take more work than they'd like.

Another repeated topic among exhibitors and producers is whether this weather pattern, with cool, slow-maturing summers and a long, wet harvest is an aberration or a trend that will last for some years. More farmers in the Red River Valley are trying to be proactive.

Ross Johnson of Agassiz Drain Tile of Mayville, N.D., says the wet fall probably will have the effect of adding to the interest by farmers in the Red River Valley to do more drain tile work.

"The guys get fed up with this after two years in a row," Johnson says. "Just get the word out that tiling doesn't add to the flooding in Fargo."

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