Drier weather helped Upper Midwest farmers

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As much of the Corn Belt was facing the challenges of drought conditions, the region directly north consisting of North Dakota, northeast South Dakota and northwest Minnesota was seeing a productive year in 2012. As a result, land values have jumped 30 to 40 percent over the past year and crop yields were substantial.

In contrast to Midwest and Southwest regions, land in this region broke a cycle of being excessively wet, which has hampered planting in recent years; therefore, a slightly drier spell during the 18 months prior to early 2013 actually improved the region’s situation.

“Drought was definitely a major issue farther south, but we’ve been so wet over the last several years that we’ve seen region-specific challenges with crop production,” said Terry Longtin, area vice president and area sales manager for Farmers National Company, which provides professional farm management and real estate sales services. “We had really favorable yields in 2012 due to dry conditions and an improvement of crop varieties over the past several years.”

Excessively wet land in this area in past years had prevented planting on parts of fields, as well as 100 percent unplanted fields in some areas. “In 2011 it was too wet in the northern 20 percent of North Dakota, and many areas had no planting whatsoever,” said Longtin.

In addition to the benefit of drier land, improved crop yields in this region have come from the development of seed and crop alternatives. New varieties of crop seeds have been released that are conducive to shorter growing seasons. Land improvements, including tiling, have been prevalent and added to the ability to reach strong production levels.

“We are seeing strong yields from an extensive variety of crops, including corn, soybeans, edible beans, sugar beets, canola and potatoes,” said Longtin. “Corn, especially, has really changed our region with an increased number of varieties available to farm operators.”

Production of all commodities was excellent in 2012, according to Longtin. “Last year was the best we’ve seen in years. This region has improved substantially over prior years in profitability. While land values have leveled slightly so far this year, they, as well as cash rents, remain strong.”

Farmers National Company currently manages more than 4,700 farms (2 million acres) in 24 states with a substantial presence in the Dakotas and Minnesota.

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