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Farmers rush to finish harvest

Posted 9/16/14 (Tue)

By Stephanie Allums
Farmer Staff Writer

As of Friday, about half of the crops in McKenzie County are still standing in the fields waiting to be harvested. Cool temperatures and moisture, along with a much later harvest have farmers racing against the clock to get this year’s crops into the grain bins.
According to Shane Johnson, a local farmer, he still has about 10 days left with a three-hour window each day to get as much done in the fields as possible before it’s too late.
Farmers in the county have produced an abundance of crops this season, but they struggle to find a place to deliver them. Not because they are bad crops, but because the Horizon Resources Elevator in Watford City is not only maxed out this year, but it has been long overdue for more room and maintenance for nearly a decade.
Typically what happens is, as the Watford City elevator fills up, truckloads of crops are delivered to the Horizon Resources Elevator in Williston. But they are also full right now, according to Steve Wentz, manager at the Watford City elevator.
“Williston is full and so are we,” Wentz said. “Our capacity is about 70,000 to 80,000 bushels. It holds quite a bit.”
It just is not enough space for all of the local farmers anymore.
“We are having to store our grain on our own farms because most elevators are full,” Johnson said. “It’s hard to find storage and sometimes you end up piling it up on the ground because you can’t fill the semi trucks fast enough.”
At one point in time, Watford City had two working grain elevators. But one of them has been down for many years, according to one local farmer.
“Our local elevator has very limited space,” said David Rolfson, who has been farming in the area since the ’70s. “It is detrimental to all of the local farmers because all of our grain has to be moved out of the county and most of us are doing it ourselves, which hurts us financially.”
For multiple years in a row, the Watford City elevator is full before the harvest seasons even begins.
“I have three semi-trucks making multiple loads to New Town every day,” Rolfson said. “Our elevator could have been getting all of the local grain, but they’re not because they are already full and have no more space. I never had to haul out of the county until about 10 years ago; now it’s typical.”
One of the many reasons that area farmers are eager to get their grain into an elevator is because they want to bring in a high quality crop and get the best price for it.
“Prices are dropping right now,” Wentz said. “Quality crops are getting bleached out terribly.”
According to Johnson, the bushels are still good, but the quality is poor due to the amount of rain McKenzie County has received this year.
“Depending on the weather conditions, I hope to be done harvesting within the next two weeks,” Rolfson said. “We had a frost last week, but it won’t affect the wheat crops much. It will more so affect the soy and corn crops.”
Although this has been a great harvest season for many farmers, the availability shortage for storage is frustrating too, because it’s tapping into many farmers’ checkbooks.
“We just don’t have the grain-handling facilities in Watford City that we need or used to have,” Rolfson said. “We have a great manager and crew; they just lack the storage. We are the largest county in the state, but we don’t have the elevator capacity that we need.”