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Good crops, but no place to store them

Posted 8/08/12 (Wed)

By Kate Ruggles
Farmer Staff Writer

Concerns about the dry and mild winter dissipated with the presence of a strong winter wheat crop and good spring moisture. Now the main issue facing area farmers is the full grain elevators.
According to Chris Quamme, Grain Division manager for Horizon Resources in Williston, both the Williston and Watford City grain elevators are currently full or near full.
“We are waiting on a train to come in to empty us, so we can empty Watford City,” states Quamme.
Until that happens, he states there’s not much he can do. According to Quamme, Horizon Resources has been in the process of adding two new bins to the Watford City grain elevator for about 1½ years. The combination of slow construction and an abundance of grain has everyone concerned.
“This year there is a big crop and the prices are good and people want to take advantage,” states Owen Hamre, who farms southwest of Watford City. “But the elevator is already full and the harvest season hasn’t even started.”
Hamre states that last year’s spring moisture prevented a lot of spring seeding, so only about half of the cropland in the county yielded a viable product. Therefore, this wasn’t an issue. However, this year, lots of area farmers have a good crop waiting to be harvested.
One of the reasons area producers are eager to get their grain into the elevator is because they want to bring in a high quality crop and get the best price for it. Spring wheat 14 protein’s price on Monday was $7.98 and the winter wheat 12 protein Monday price was $7.42, which are both up from last season. However, the price for choice durum is down from last season, selling at $7.38.
“Most producers rely on the elevator because they don’t have enough storage,” Hamre states. “If farmers can’t use this elevator, they will have to take their grain to New Town or other area elevators, which uses up a lot of time on the road, especially in this traffic.”
However, according to Steve Wentz, manager for the Watford City grain elevator, that will only do so much.
“Everyone is full right now,” states Wentz. “It’s just that there is a lot happening all at once.”
Wentz is referring to the good crops all over western North Dakota, and the harvesting of winter wheat, durum and spring wheat all happening right now.
“One elevator can only handle so many bushels of grain,” states Hamre. “So it winds up coming in faster than it can go out.”
And the lack of grain handling capacity at the elevators is what makes area farmers very frustrated.
According to Calli Thorne, in addition to the full grain elevators, another concern for some farmers is a need for hay and grazing land, and on a minor level, bugs.
“Weebles were an issue to the alfalfa crop earlier in June, but farmers who caught it early were able to take care of it,” states Thorne. “Now we have seen more grasshoppers, but they don’t seem to have affected the crop so far. The bigger concern is that we have been getting a lot of calls from farmers because they haven’t gotten as much hay this year as they have in the past, and a lot of our neighboring states are in more drought-like conditions and in need of fall grazing lands.”
North Dakota has managed to steer clear of the dry conditions facing the rest of the country, which is good for farmers hit hard by last season’s excess moisture.
If anyone has hay for sale or fall grazing, they can contact Thorne at the NDSU Extension office at 701-444-3451.