ND farmers prepared for spring problems | TSLN.com

ND farmers prepared for spring problems

Susanne Stahl

DTN photo by Susanne StahlThe Red River is expected to crest again in the next 10 days, which may bring more problems for North Dakota farmers, who are busy preparing for spring.

WACONIA, MN (DTN) – The Red River is expected to crest again sometime in the next 10 days, but farmers in the valley aren’t panicked.

Everybody’s preparing for the problems that are out there, said Keith Torgerson, a farm business management educator in Wahpeton, ND. They’re purchasing equipment or modifying it so that they’re ready to handle the conditions this spring.

“But it’s really a week too soon to tell what we can expect,” he said. “If the weather warms up and we get in the field by the first of May, there won’t be that many changes.” If it’s the middle of May, that’s different, he added.

Arnie Anderson, who farms near Hankinson, ND, finished taking out his crop around the first of December. That didn’t leave a lot of time for fall fieldwork, and he has a lot of cornstalks to contend with before he can plant.

There’s “a lot of additional work” out there, he said, and he’s planning to use rolling coulters in his tillage program to help cut through the residue.

“I hope to get in the field by May 1,” Anderson said. That might be a stretch – or it might not, depending on the weather.

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Anderson, who primarily grows corn and soybeans, was planning on a little wheat this year, but now he’s sure he won’t.

“You want wheat in the ground already,” Torgerson agreed. “The later you go, the more the odds of a decent crop diminish.”

Though planting intentions are certainly in flux at this point, weather has always been a limiting factor in the Valley – and growers know how to handle it: After the flood waters of 1997 receded, they were out in the field within a week, Torgerson said.

“We can put in a crop so darn fast – we can get a lot done in two weeks.”

“If the sun comes out, I think it will be okay,” Anderson added. “I just hope we don’t get another 2- to 4-inch rain – that’ll be devastating, slow us down again.”

Perhaps the biggest issue for now is transportation logistics. Washed-out or soft roads combined with weight restrictions make getting to town tricky, if not impossible for some growers.

Seventeen roads in Greendale Township, where Anderson farms, were washed out, making it impossible to haul, he said. “You can’t haul over these soft roads – they’d never take it; we won’t haul any grain until probably May or June.”

A grower in Torgerson’s area lives only four miles from town, but it takes him 40 minutes to get there.

A lot of growers only have one or two ways out of these farmsteads, said Rick Taylor, grain manager at Plains Grain and Agronomy in Enderlin, ND. And they have to be careful what they haul over those roads because they don’t want to ruin the only one they have out. Besides roads, many are also dealing with wet yards and bin sites.

If they are hauling, they’ll shut down by 11 o’clock in the morning as temperatures warm and the ground softens, he said.

All this has some growers delayed under contract, which, in turn, has the elevator under pressure to fill its scheduled trains.

“We’re trying to move freight farther out,” Taylor said, “but once you have trains scheduled, you shut down at a price. We’re hoping the rail companies work with us; they’re usually pretty good.”

Farther north in Thompson, ND, Mike Morgan of Thompson Grain Inc. said he hasn’t had any delays as far as farmers or other elevators making deliveries.

“We always end up with road restrictions this time of year anyway, and our growers (did a good job of) moving grain in early.”

susanne stahl can be reached at susanne.stahl@dtn.com