Corn bringing ear-to-ear smiles

North Dakota State Roundup

Published November 1, 2007  | November 2007 issue

There's no telling how long it will last, but corn is the new king among North Dakota crops, at least in terms of total bushels produced.

The state's agriculture department forecast an 80 percent increase in its corn crop over last year. Combined with the increase in corn prices, total revenue from the state's estimated corn crop of 280 million bushels will skyrocket from just over $200 million last year to somewhere north of $850 million, second only to wheat in terms of value.

The effects of corn farming can be felt in many areas of the state's economy, but particularly in related ag sectors. A federal agriculture report found that farmland prices in 2007 rose 13 percent over last year and 23 percent over 2005. Prices for pastureland are up even more in percentage terms. State officials cited ethanol's demand for corn and the ripple effect it had on other commodities.

The corn boom has greatly benefited Agriculture Equipment Marketing & Supply Co., of Minot. Net sales of corn-based equipment have reportedly quadrupled, and annual revenues at the firm have grown from $5 million in 2000 to a projected $75 million next year, according to AgWeek. One of the firm's subsidiaries builds the world's largest corn header (the front harvesting mechanism on a combine)—the first two of which were sold to in-state corn farmers.

Though a lot of acreage is getting converted to corn, farmers are seeing revenue in other crops rise as well. Nationwide, acreage for dry edible beans dropped by 8 percent—mostly because of higher corn plantings—but held mostly steady in North Dakota. Production nationwide dropped by 2 percent, but jumped 25 percent in North Dakota. Combined with higher prices this year, the value of this crop is expected to jump some 60 percent to $220 million, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Even the other king of North Dakota agriculture—wheat—has benefited. Though total planted acres dropped by about 7 percent this year, the average bushel price in August was almost $2 more—about 50 percent higher—than a year ago, meaning that it too will be earning more money for state farmers.

Ronald A. Wirtz