Down on the farm, things are way up

South Dakota State Roundup

Published November 1, 2008  | November 2008 issue

If South Dakota farmers have a little extra bounce this year, it's not from underinflated tractor tires.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture found that average farmland values in South Dakota grew by 21 percent in 2008, tops in the country. That's because everything farmers put in the ground is coming up roses, so to speak. Summer prices for hay and alfalfa hit all-time highs—some 30 percent over 2007 levels; South Dakota is the country's second leading alfalfa producer. This summer, more than 400 farmers pulled in $1.3 million for a carbon sequestration program run by the state's Farmers Union.

The state also expects a record corn crop of almost 570 million bushels. Better than half of that is consumed by ethanol production, which continues to expand despite low profit margins given high corn prices. This year, state ethanol producers hit 1 billion gallons from 16 plants. Four additional plants with a capacity of 260 million gallons are being explored.

Ronald A. Wirtz