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2011 N.D. crop prices down, but still near historic highs

Prices received for crops by North Dakota farmers last month were down from November, but remain near historic highs, according to a report released last week.

Prices received for crops by North Dakota farmers last month were down from November, but remain near historic highs, according to a report released last week.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's agricultural statistics office in Fargo, the state's farmers received an average of $8.15 per bushel for spring wheat at grain elevators in December, down 52 cents from what they got in November.

But the $8.15 still is a record for December marketings, based on figures reported by USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service office in Fargo. The only comparable figure was the $7.49 per bushel received in December 2007. From 2005-2010, the December prices received for spring wheat averaged $5.46 a bushel.

If inflation is accounted for, of course, prices of about $5 per bushel received in the early 1970s would amount to twice or more the December 2011 prices.

Darin Jantzi, director of NASS's North Dakota field office, said final figures for the current wheat marketing year, which ends in June, won't be available until next summer, including weighing each month's prices by what percent of the year's wheat crop is sold in that month.

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Each December, the state's farmers sell about 10 percent of the spring wheat crop, compared to nearly 15 percent right off the combine each August during harvest, according to NASS reports of recent years. Correspondingly, wheat prices tend to be higher during spring months, when little wheat is left to be sold.

But monthly reports can show rough comparisons, Jantzi said.

60 percent higher

In the calendar year 2011 which ended Dec. 31, the state's farmers received an average of $8.50 per bushel for spring wheat sold at grain elevators, according to NASS's monthly reports. That's 60 percent higher than the average of $5.31 per bushel received during calendar year 2010, according to similar NASS monthly reports.

Prices have been higher in recent years, but not for as long.

From February 2007 to June 2007, the state's farmers received, on average, $10.10 to $12.70 per bushel for spring wheat.

But prices before and after that short, hot period were much lower, reflected in annual average prices of $7.45 for the 2007-2008 marketing year and $7.19 for the 2008-2009 marketing year, which ended June 30, 2009.

Remarkable factor

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In the five marketing years ending June 30, 2010, spring wheat prices received by the state's farmers averaged $5.53, according to NASS.

Another remarkable factor in 2011 was that prices for all crops were near historic highs.

For example, soybean prices received by North Dakota farmers averaged $10.50 a bushel in December. That's down 80 cents from November prices and a full $1.30 from what they got in August.

But for all of 2011, soybean prices received by the state's farmers averaged just a penny less than $12 a bushel, 26 percent higher than the similar average price received in calendar year 2010, according to NASS figures.

'King' crop

Corn has become the chief rival for North Dakota's "king" crop, spring wheat. In 2011, the state's farmers produced more corn than spring wheat, for only the third time, all in the past five years.

Corn prices received by the state's farmers averaged $5.64 last year, based on the monthly reports from NASS; that's 64 percent higher than in 2010.

Again, these prices are not entirely comparable to the marketing year figures calculated by NASS, weighted with actual sales receipts for each month, Jantzi said.

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But the numbers still can give an idea of the remarkable year, price-wise, farmers saw in 2011, he said.

By rough comparison, the average price for corn received by North Dakota farmers in the five marketing years ending Sep. 30, 2010, was $3.11 a bushel, according to NASS figures.

'A good year'

"It's been a good year for corn prices," said Bart Schott, a Kulm, N.D., farmer who is chairman -- and past president -- of the National Corn Growers Association. "We've had an explosion of corn acres moving northwest across the state. I have two young sons farming, and if they could, they would plant every acre to corn every year because it's the profit leader on the farm."

At the same time, costs are rising to grow corn, he said.

"Land costs have gone through the roof," he said. "Most farmers I talked to say the cost of production for 2012 will be $4.70 to $5 a bushel."

Reach Lee at (701) 780-1237; (800) 477-6572, ext. 237; or send e-mail to slee@gfherald.com .

Related Topics: AGRICULTURE
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This piece was written for Prairie Business, which covers business in the Dakotas and Minnesota. To receive a free digital edition each month, see the instructions at the bottom of this story.