Jonathan Knutson / Agweek Staff Writer
I'll talk about agriculture with anyone. And I'm proud and pleased to have talked with Ray Goldberg, a North Dakota native, Harvard professor emeritus and a co-coiner of the term "agribusiness" in 1957.
FARGO, N.D. — Redder, bluer, and a more challenging environment for production agriculture. That's how Jim Wiesemeyer, Pro Farmer Washington analyst, assesses the result of the November elections. Wiesemeyer spoke Nov. 27 at the annual Northern Ag Expo in Fargo on "Washington Volatility to Continue: Updates on Economy, Farm Policy, Energy and Trade."
Alisha Nord and Dan Donnelly are true agriculturalists. The circumstances — he proposed to her in the barn, and she accepted — are proof of that. "It was about as honest a true surprise as a person could get," Nord said of his proposal. "I completely tricked her," Donnelly said. As for the setting, which some folks might consider, well, less than romantic, "Most of the people who know us, when they heard about it, said, 'That's so you guys. That's so perfect,'" Nord said.
It's sometimes said that Upper Midwest agriculture is divided into the crop season and the winter meeting season. Though the 2018 crop season isn't wrapped up yet, the meeting season is beginning. The 2019 Prairie Grains Conference — considered by some to be the unofficial start of the farm meeting season in northeast North Dakota and northwest Minnesota — will be held Dec. 12-13 at the Alerus Center in Grand Forks, N.D. Typically, 750 to 900 people attend.
With almost glacial slowness, the Upper Midwest harvest is inching forward. And even though Thanksgiving is in the rear-view mirror, many area farmers still have crops in the field. Much of the area's corn and sunflower crops remain to be harvested, and even some soybeans haven't been combined yet, according to the weekly crop progress report released Monday, Nov. 26, by the National Agricultural Statistics Service, an arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The report reflected conditions on Nov. 25.
Dan Frith used a straightforward approach to a not-so-simple problem. He took out a newspaper advertisement with the headline "Looking for a Farm" in the Devils Lake, N.D, area. "I want people to know that I'm looking for land and hope to raise my family on the farm," says Frith, 31, who's married and has two young children. His ad in the Dakota Peddler, published by the Devils Lake Journal, states that he "would like to work closely with someone in Ramsey County who is looking to transition out of farming and wants to see their farm legacy continue."
It's part of agricultural bankers' job description: Work with borrowers and offer constructive insights into how to financially strengthen clients' farming operations. Expect more — possibly a lot more — of that as area farmers and their lenders prepare for the 2019 crop season. Weak farm profitability, aggravated by poor soybean prices, will cause some lenders to ask tough questions that could require difficult decisions on everything from the timing of fertilizer purchases to potentially giving up farmland.
This is a column about two of the most important things in Upper Midwest agriculture: the weather and soybeans. We'll start with the former, end with the latter. It's risky to generalize about area weather. The region is so big, with so much variation in it, that what's true one place — or even most places — isn't true everywhere.
The Upper Midwest soybean harvest is inching toward completion. But there's still a lot of work ahead for area corn and sunflower producers. North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota farmers made relatively modest harvest progress in the week ending Nov. 18, according to the weekly crop progress report released Nov. 19 by the National Agricultural Statistics Service, an arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Much of the focus in agricultural circles is on soybeans, the harvest of which was delayed by uncooperative weather in October and early November.
Regular readers of this column (all three or four of you) have a pretty good idea of what I'm thankful for this Thanksgiving season. The long list includes science, technology, international trade, the perseverance of my ancestors and, in varying degrees, the wisdom and generosity of Agweek readers. So rather than repeat at length what I've written already, I'll focus here on a few things that, in my humble opinion, would make Thanksgiving even better for those of us whose lives revolve around agriculture. I'd give thanks for wimpier weeds