Good year: 2012 area crops valued at $1.9 billionFarmers of the region enjoyed a nearly $2 billion growing season last year, according to Frayne Olson, crop economist for North Dakota State University. The alignment of yields and prices creating that bonanza may not occur again.
By: By Keith Norman, The Jamestown Sun, The Jamestown Sun
Farmers of the region enjoyed a nearly $2 billion growing season last year, according to Frayne Olson, crop economist for North Dakota State University. The alignment of yields and prices creating that bonanza may not occur again.
“The year 2012 was the perfect storm of locally good yields and high prices,” he said. “We had a good crop and nobody else did so we hit a homerun. It is unlikely this is sustainable. The combination of good yields and good prices doesn’t happen often.”
Statistics released from the National Agriculture Statistics Service indicate the counties of Barnes, Dickey, Foster, Griggs, Kidder, LaMoure, Logan, Stutsman and Wells totaled about $1.9 billion in gross revenue from the major crops. The reports do not include livestock, dairy or minor crops such as lentils, edible beans or peas.
Crops in North Dakota were estimated at $10.9 billion, which was an increase of $5 billion from 2011, according to the same NASS report.
Doug Goehring, North Dakota agriculture commisioner, said the crops have changed but the importance of agriculture in North Dakota has not.
“The dynamics have changed across eastern and central North Dakota,” he said. “But agriculture is still the driver of jobs in the state. About 25 percent of all jobs in North Dakota are related to agribusiness.”
Goerhing said grain farming has an economic modifier of about 3.7. This means for every dollar of revenue from grain crop sales there is about $3.70 in business activity in the region.
The modifiers are greater for livestock farms with dairy and poultry operations showing an economic modifier of about eight.
This translates to a total economic impact from crop agriculture of about $7 billion in the nine-county area and nearly $40 billion across North Dakota.
“This is a significant impact everywhere in the state,” he said. “Statewide, agriculture is still bigger than oil.”
Of the nine-county area, Stutsman County led with about $410 million in gross crop value. This translates to about $343 for every acre of farmland in the county and $392,000 in gross sales for each farm operation.
The number of acres of farmland and the number of farms was based on the 2007 Farm Census which is the most recent available. The acreage includes pastures, hay land and lands that could not be farmed due to wet conditions. Data from the 2012 Farm Census won’t be available until later in 2013.
On the other end of the scale was Logan County with $28 million in gross crop revenue. This translated to about $48 per farmland acre and $65,000 per farm. Logan County includes more livestock operations which were not included in the revenue reports.
LaMoure County showed the highest gross revenue per acre with $750 per acre and $401,000 per farm. LaMoure County has about 366,000 acres of farmland with 206,500 planted to the high value crops of corn and soybeans.
“You have to remember this is gross revenue not net revenue,” Olson said. “The gross revenue on corn, for example, is much higher than on wheat but the net revenue is not as big because of the input costs.”
Input costs include more fertilizer and agriculture chemicals used in growing corn rather than wheat.
Corn amounted to about $913 million in gross revenues for the region. Soybeans amounted to $768 million in revenues. These two crops amounted to about 45 percent of the crop acres in the region but generated 89 percent of the gross revenue.
If corn and soybeans were removed from the areas fields and replaced with spring wheat, for example, the resulting change would amount to about $595 million in gross revenue, according to the NASS reports.
Olson said changes in crop genetics in recent years have made corn and soybeans a viable crop for this region. He is unsure whether continued advances are possible.
“That is a hotly debated topic,” he said. “Some say there can be additional progress in crop technology and others say we’ve reached our limits.”
Most farms utilize corn and soybean seeds that have been genetically modified to tolerate herbicides, allowing for easier weed control in the fields. Other genetic modifications have included changes to plants to kill insect pests, Olson said.
“The next genetic issue is drought tolerance,” he said. “In 2012 there were measurable differences in yields between drought tolerant and standard varieties.”
Olson said the high value of the 2012 crop indicates the importance of agriculture in the North Dakota economy.
“Ag is still number one in the state,” he said. “There continues to be more gross income generated from agriculture than energy even though the oil boom generates the most attention.”
Sun reporter Keith Norman can be reached at 701-952-8452 or by email at email@example.com