BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Farmers in the Dakotas are expected to produce sizable wheat crops and record soybean crops this year, thanks largely to a growing season free of major problems.
The latest report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, released this week, estimates South Dakota's soybean crop will be up 7 percent from last year to 196 million bushels and North Dakota's soybean crop up 37 percent to 190 million bushels. The increase comes at the expense of corn production, which is expected to drop 5 percent in South Dakota and 9 percent in North Dakota.
"Beans did take over a few of the corn acres," said John Horter, who farms near the northeastern South Dakota town of Andover and serves as president of the state Soybean Association. "Prices of some commodities have dropped and corn is not as profitable."
Most areas of South Dakota have rebounded from a devastating drought two years ago, and Horter said this year's growing season has been devoid of damaging weather.
"We've had pretty good rainfall, we've gotten away from really hot temperatures this summer," he said. "It's been really cool, and that's advantageous to soybeans. And we've pretty much stayed away from hail."
The cool summer also has been a boon for the spring wheat and winter wheat crops in the Dakotas.
"Wheat being a cool-season grass, it kind of liked the conditions," said Neal Fisher, administrator of the North Dakota Wheat Commission. "We only had a few days where we hit 90 degrees. And we had fairly decent moisture."
USDA is projecting a record average spring wheat yield in North Dakota of 47 bushels per acre, up half a bushel from last year. Some of the higher yield can be attributed to advances in crop research, Fisher said, "but it still takes the favorable (growing) conditions to trigger that."
The higher yield along with additional planted acres are expected to push production up 16 percent over the year to 273 million bushels. North Dakota annually grows about half of the nation's spring wheat crop.
Spring wheat production is forecast to be up 14 percent in South Dakota, to about 58 million bushels.
Both states' winter wheat crops are forecast to be more than double the size of last year's.
"Corn has been the No. 1 producer here the last few years, but with a drop in price, people are just going away from corn more, putting acres into other crops," Horter said.
With a widespread backlog in railcars that many attribute to increased crude oil and freight shipments from North Dakota's booming oil patch, farmers are worried about getting their bountiful crops to market, Horter and Fisher said.
"I worry about rail capacity, and plugging the (grain) elevators, and things like that," Fisher said. "There's a lot of concern about capacity and the ability to move the crop."
Both BNSF Railway and Canadian Pacific Railway have said they have made progress on easing the backlog.
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