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N.D. reports major fall in sown acreage

An hour's drive through the countryside makes it evident: Spring rains and flooding did a number on spring planting in North Dakota. And on Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture provided a number: 9 percent. The department's June acreage re...

An hour's drive through the countryside makes it evident: Spring rains and flooding did a number on spring planting in North Dakota.

And on Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture provided a number: 9 percent.

The department's June acreage report indicates that North Dakota farmers have planted 2.1 million fewer acres than last year, counting all principal crops. That's a decline of 9 percent from 2008 and more than half of the total national decline of 3.9 million acres.

Given record flooding across the state this spring and stretches of cool temperatures, the planting numbers did not surprise Terry Miller, the U.S. Farm Service Agency's county director for Grand Forks County.

"I'd say that in Grand Forks County, 10 percent is probably a reasonable average," Miller said.

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"From what I hear, the farther north you go, the worse it is -- up in Walsh and Pembina counties, over to Cavalier County."

If farmers can't plant by a certain date, which varies from crop to crop, they can take "prevented planting" insurance benefits rather than plant late and risk a yield loss, Miller said.

"We haven't had a prevented-planting year like this for many years," he said. "Last year, spring planting conditions were almost optimal, and there was very little if any prevented-planting acreage in Grand Forks County."

Acreage planted to corn in North Dakota fell by 25 percent this spring, the USDA report said, the largest percentage drop in the country.

A significant drop in crop acreage can have some trickle-down effects, Miller said.

"There's going to be that much less crop produced, which could potentially lead to many different things," he said. "Probably, there will be 10 percent less fertilizer sold in some local communities, and maybe 10 percent less fuel.

"But livestock producers out west are probably smiling," Miller said, if pastures burned by drought last year were turned lush and green by good rains this spring. "They'll have good feed for their livestock."

Nationally, farmers planted big crops of corn (87 million acres, up 1 million acres over last year and the second-largest crop ever) and soybeans (a record 77.5 million acres, up 1.8 million). Analysts figure the increased plantings could moderate food costs, The Associated Press reported.

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The USDA also found larger corn reserves than expected. Coupled with the hike in planting, that could revive an ethanol industry buffeted last year by spiking grain prices and falling oil prices.

Despite the boost in corn and soybeans, total U.S. principal crop acreage declined by 4 million acres, or 1.2 percent, the USDA reported.

Reach Haga at (701) 780-1102; (800) 477-6572, ext. 102;

or send e-mail to chaga@gfherald.com .

Related Topics: 2009 FLOODCORNNORTH DAKOTASOYBEANS
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