Most specialty crop acres in northern Plains expected to be lower this year than last

Similar to major crops, the number of acres of specialty crops, such as sunflowers, that farmers will plant may change depending on weather conditions during the next several weeks.

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Sunflowers acreage in North Dakota is estimated to drop this year, according to the March 31 U.S. Agriculture Department planting intentions report.
Nick Nelson / Agweek

Specialty crop acreage is expected to decrease in the northern Plains in 2023.

Similar to major crops, such as soybeans and corn, the number of planted acres of specialty crops, such as sunflowers, may change depending on weather conditions during the next several weeks.

Sunflower acreage would be the lowest since 1976, according to the agency’s March 31, 2023, planting intentions report, which the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimated at 1.36 million. The number of total sunflower acres — both oil and non oil — are forecast to decline in seven of the eight major sunflower production states, including Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota. USDA pegged Minnesota 2023 sunflower acreage at 58,000, which is 25% less than 2022; North Dakota acres at 659,000, 8% lower than 2022; and South Dakota acres at 440,000, one-third less than last year.

In 2022, USDA also estimated in its planting intentions report that sunflowers acres would similarly decline from 2021, but the reduction didn’t occur, said John Sandbakken, National Sunflower Association executive director. Farmers turned to sunflowers in 2022 when spring planting was delayed by wet conditions.

“The acres did go to sunflowers because we were one of the crops that could be planted. There definitely is potential for that this year,” he said.


Kansas farmers, which are expected to nearly double their sunflower acreage over 2022 to 152,000 in 2023, have expressed interest in planting the crop because it takes less water to grow under irrigation than soybeans and corn, Sandbakken said.

Flax reduction

U.S. acreage of flax, another minor oilseed, is expected to drop this year.

Acreage in North Dakota, the No. 1 flax production state, is estimated at 110,000, which is 33% lower than 2022. USDA's estimate acreage in Montana, the other flax state, is at 65,000, which is a 34% decline.

Flax prices this year, which averaged $16.20 in February 2023, are 41% lower than February 2022 when they were $27.50 per bushel, according to USDA.

Flax in full bloom
North Dakota flax acreage is estimated to drop in 2023, the U.S. Agriculture Department said in its March 31, 2023 planting intentions report.
Forum News Service

Edible beans

Total U.S. dry edible bean acreage, which USDA pegged at 1.23 million in the USDA report, is expected to decline slightly from the 1.25 million acres planted last year.
Minnesota acres are expected to drop by 12% from 2022 to 190,000 in 2023. North Dakota acres, however, are estimated to increase this year by 4% to 590,000, USDA said.

The expected increase in North Dakota acreage was surprising, said Mitch Coulter, Northarvest Bean Growers Association executive director.

“I really believed because of all of the soybean crush plants coming into North Dakota, our sweet spot would be down a bit,” Coulter said. Three soybean crush plants have been proposed to be built in eastern North Dakota.


North Dakota’s base edible bean acreage accounts for 64% of total U.S. acres, which is a good position in which to be, Coulter said.
The decline in Minnesota edible bean acreage may be the result of a drop in kidney bean prices, which has resulted from logistical issues, such as transportation. Minnesota grows the majority of the United States’ kidney beans.

A field of North Dakota canola stands high.
Agweek file photo

North Dakota, the No. 1 canola producer in the country is expected to have a record 1.9 million acres in 2023, that's 100,000 more than the previous record set in 2022. Total U.S. acreage is estimated to be a record 2.27 million, 3% more than 2022, USDA estimated.

U.S. lentil and chickpea acreage is expected to decline in 2023 by 21% to 519,000 and by 4% to 340,000, respectively from 2022. Dry edible pea acreage is estimated to increase by 9% this year to 1 million. North Dakota dry edible pea acreage is pegged to jump 290,000, a 26% increase over 2022. Montana will increase by 7% over 2022 to 570,000 in 2023, USDA said. South Dakota acreage will decline by 33% to 8,000.

Ann is a journalism veteran with nearly 40 years of reporting and editing experiences on a variety of topics including agriculture and business. Story ideas or questions can be sent to Ann by email at: or phone at: 218-779-8093.
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