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Demand high for big equipment in farming business

ABERDEEN, S.D. -- An excess of water in fields has farmers looking for equipment that will not only keep them from getting stuck but also protect the soil.

Matt Hagebock
In this photo taken April 8, 2010, Matt Hagebock, manager of Graham Tire Company of Aberdeen, stands in the storage yard among the tractor and implement tires. With area producers getting ready for planting season Graham and other tire outlets are seeing more business.

ABERDEEN, S.D. -- An excess of water in fields has farmers looking for equipment that will not only keep them from getting stuck but also protect the soil.

Local businesses that cater to the ag industry say demand has been high for large ag tires, track tractors and other gear.

Matt Hagebock, manager at Graham Tire in Aberdeen, said there's a trend in the ag industry toward larger equipment with more horsepower. More farmers are also using four-wheel drive tractors, he said. That has led to an increased demand for large tractor tires. At times, Hagebock said, it can be a challenge to keep the needed supply on hand.

Track tractors are also gaining popularity, Hagebock said, a sentiment that workers at implement dealers share.

Troy Haselhorst at Butler Machinery in Aberdeen said that track tractors -- which run on tracks instead of wheels, much like a military tank -- float better on wet ground and are better for the soil because they don't compact it. Simply put, he said, they have a bigger footprint.

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"I've never seen fields quite like this," Haselhorst said, referring to high water levels.

He said there's been a spike in sales in a wide variety of machinery that has more power and gets better traction.

Loren Paul, who works at Green Iron Equipment in Ellendale, N.D., said the same thing. Even though there's a lot of water in some fields, he said, sales are strong and farmers are anxious to plant. He said there are more problematic fields south of the state border than north.

Paul said the phone rings daily with people asking about or looking for four-wheel-drive tractors. Many years, he said, farmers have bought their tractors and other equipment such as planters by this point in spring. This year, though, they're still shopping, he said.

Dual-tire options, which also help distribute weight better, are also gaining popularity for combines and self-propelled sprayers, said Evan Fonder of RDO Equipment in Aberdeen.

Technology can also help farmers in wet fields, he said. Global Positioning Systems can help keep producers from overseeding, he said. With so many potholes in fields, it's not easy to make straight trips from one end of a field to the other. And turns and curves along the way can make accurate planting difficult, he said. GPS equipment can keep a planter from spreading seed in individual rows that have already been covered, he said.

Fonder said sales of ag equipment that can get through water have been strong since last fall.

A native of northern Minnesota, Fonder said he's still adjusting to the weather in the Aberdeen area. It's wet now, but in a couple of months many fields could be dry, he said. That, he said, makes it difficult for people in the ag sector to know what to expect very far into the future.

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