Corn crops are taking different paths in the Dakotas
By Blake Nicholson
U.S. Department of Agriculture production estimates for South Dakota’s corn crop have risen steadily this fall, from 731 million bushels in August to 769 million in September to 812 million this month. The expected record crop would be up 52 percent from last year.
On the flip side, production estimates for North Dakota have been falling — from 418 million bushels in August to 400 million in September to 375 million this month. The crop would be down 11 percent from last year’s record.
USDA did not publish estimates in October because of the 16-day partial shutdown of the federal government.
North Dakota corn farmers enjoyed a record production year in 2012, largely because they did not deal with the devastating drought that other corn states including South Dakota suffered through. This year, adverse weather has cut into production.
“We had a wet spring that delayed planting, then we had a very dry summer,” said Tom Lilja, executive director of the North Dakota Corn Growers Association. “Overall, our statewide yield will be average to slightly below average.”
That isn’t the case in many states this year. At least 18 states will set records for corn yields, or the amount of corn produced per acre, according to USDA. In South Dakota, the expected yield would be the second-highest on record in the state.
“We had a good start, and a lot of those areas that were really hit hard by drought last year really got some timely rains,” said Keith Alverson, who farms near Chester. “This year everything got planted and we got plentiful rain.
“In the south, it was a disaster last year,” he said. This year, “everybody is pretty pleased.”
The same holds true in North Dakota, despite the drop in production.
“We’re not too far from average for North Dakota,” said Kim Swenson, who farms near Lakota. “It’s hard to think of it that way, since we had such a good year last year.”
Jay Nissen, who farms near Larimore, said many producers dealt with dry and wet conditions at different times of the year.
“Considering that we mudded the crop in, then went eight weeks without rain, we’re quite amazed we got the crop we did,” he said.