Crop production value falls in N.D. in 2009The total value of the crops produced by North Dakota farmers plummeted last year after two consecutive years at record highs. A big reason for the decline was that the state’s staple wheat crop — though the biggest in more than a dozen years — was hurt by quality problems that made it less valuable to buyers.
By: By Blake Nicholson, The Associated Press , The Jamestown Sun
BISMARCK — The total value of the crops produced by North Dakota farmers plummeted last year after two consecutive years at record highs.
A big reason for the decline was that the state’s staple wheat crop — though the biggest in more than a dozen years — was hurt by quality problems that made it less valuable to buyers.
Spring wheat, which is used for products such as bread, was down 20 percent in value to $1.42 billion. Durum wheat, the main ingredient in pasta, dropped 21 percent to $300 million.
Neal Fisher, administrator of the North Dakota Wheat Commission, said the drops were due to market prices being down substantially from record and near-record levels in 2007 and 2008, along with low levels of protein in the grain. Protein is important to millers and bakers because it affects the quality of their products.
“All that said, the wheat crop ... is still going to be worth about $2 billion — with a B — which is a good number,” Fisher said.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates the value of all crops grown in North Dakota in 2009 at $5.53 billion, a drop of 17 percent from the 2008 total of $6.69 billion. However, both the 2008 total and the 2007 figure of $6.65 billion were records, said Darin Jantzi, director of the North Dakota field office of USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.
Value of production for each crop is computed by multiplying the average price over the marketing year by the production. That means years of high prices for one crop — such as 2007, when wheat prices spiraled upward to as high as $20 per bushel because of strong demand and smaller crops around the world — can quickly push up the total value of all crops.
Wheat prices have slid to the $4-$5 range, which Fisher said is still a good price.
“Agriculture is still a very important part of this whole economy,” he said.
A good year for soybeans in North Dakota helped keep the total crop value from falling even more in 2009. Farmers produced their second-biggest crop in history, which the USDA says was worth a record $1.07 billion, up 5 percent from 2008.
Corn for grain in North Dakota showed a 34 percent decrease in value, to $708 million, due in large part to a drop in production of 27 percent from the record 2008 crop.
Values were down for North Dakota’s sunflower, barley, dry pea, dry bean, potato, winter wheat, canola and flaxseed crops, while lentils and oats saw increases. Commodity prices for most crops fell last year, in large part because of the global recession.