A mighty sweet spot

North Dakota State Roundup

Published May 1, 2009  | May 2009 issue

Farmers across the Ninth District experienced a roller coaster in 2008, with commodity prices skyrocketing in mid-year, only to decline significantly along with much of the economy. Still, the value of North Dakota's crop production came close to the record set in 2007—about $6.6 billion—mostly the result of farmers locking in contract prices before the decline and bigger output from both spring wheat and corn.

While lower prices in 2009 might be a challenge for some crop farmers, sugar growers appear to be in a good place right now. Prices for sugarbeets have been good for a couple of years running at $40 to $45 per hundredweight (though most sugarbeet growers in the state are part of a cooperative, whose prices are not publicly disclosed and might vary). Prices are expected to stay strong. For starters, stockpiles are reportedly lower. Demand has also been stretched due to an explosion last year at a sugar refinery in Georgia that handled almost 10 percent of the country's refined sugar output. Higher profitability is also projected, in part because more growers are converting to a herbicide-resistant seed that cut down on overall input costs.

Tilling the rich Red River Valley that runs between them, North Dakota and Minnesota accounted for about 60 percent of the U.S. sugarbeet crop in the United States in 2008.

Ronald A. Wirtz