More beets, more potatoes
North Dakota and Minnesota producers are forecast to grow more sugar beets and potatoes than last year, but soybean and corn crops are expected to be down, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The potato harvest that wrapped up in both states in late October should bring in 25.2 million hundredweight (cwt) in North Dakota, a 16 percent increase from last year, according to numbers released last week by the USDA's National Agriculture Statistics Service. Though planted acres were down 5,000 acres from 2016, the 75,000 acres that were planted were more harvestable, according to the report. Harvesters recovered 74,000 acres of potatoes this year, up 2,000 acres from last year.
In Minnesota, producers are forecast to bin 18.9 million cwt, a 12 percent increase from last year. They are expected to harvest 45,500 acres, up 3,500 acres from last year.
The increased forecasts come after a relatively dry year in the Red River Valley, at least compared with last year. Excessive rain in 2016 prevented farmers from harvesting some of their crops, especially in northwest Minnesota and northeast North Dakota.
The Red River Valley has had average to slightly above-average rainfall, though parts of it are "abnormally dry," according to the U.S. Drought Monitor website.
Still, potato yields in North Dakota and Minnesota are estimated at 340 cwt per acre (up 40 cwt from last year) and 415 cwt per acre (up 15 cwt from 2015), respectively, according to the USDA. The quality of potatoes also is expected to be better than recent years, industry leaders said.
Sugar beet production in Minnesota is projected to hit a record high of 12.7 million tons, up 2 percent from the record set last year, according to the USDA. North Dakota should hit 6.5 million tons, up 4 percent from last year, forecasters predicted. Yields for both states should be up slightly from last year with about 31 tons per acre, according to the report.
Acres harvested this year were up 3 percent from last year in North Dakota, with harvesters there combing through 209,000 acres this season, according to the USDA. Minnesota is expected to harvest 411,000 acres of beets, about 6,000 less than last year.
Harvesters had an easier time bringing in the beet harvest, with the weather cooperating to allow producers to wrap up early in mid- to late October, industry leaders said. Sugar content was up from last year, with industry leaders saying the beet harvest had quality plants.
American Crystal Sugar Co. is projecting a stronger initial payment for this year's crop compared with 2016, according to a recent report from Forum News Service. A shareholder letter obtained by Agweek put those numbers at $46 per ton, minus $4 for unit retains.
The same letter said 2016 crop payments came at $42.45 per ton.
Corn, soybeans expected to dip
Farmers in North Dakota and Minnesota have most of their corn harvested for the season, but they are behind last year's pace, according to the USDA.
North Dakota producers are about 76 percent done with the corn crop as of Saturday, according to the NASS progress report released Monday. That's compared with 83 percent last year and the five-year average of 85 percent.
Minnesota farmers, who harvested 79 percent of their crop as of Saturday, were about 12 days behind the five-year average and well behind the 93 percent harvested at that time last year, NASS said.
The soybean harvest wrapped up in early November, about the same time as last year, according to the USDA
The USDA predicted last week North Dakota corn producers would bring in 427 million bushels, down 17 percent compared with 2016's harvest. Minnesota should produce 1.45 billion bushels, down 6 percent from last year.
Yields in Minnesota are forecast to average 190 bushels per acre, up 6 bushels from 2016, according to the report. North Dakota's average yields are estimated to drop by 24 bushels per acre from last year to 134 bushels per acre, according to the USDA.
Soybean production in North Dakota and Minnesota is forecast at 249 million bushels and 373 million bushels, slightly below last year's production, according to the report. Average yields for the crop in Minnesota should see no change with 46 bushels per acre, while North Dakota's yields are forecast at 35 bushels per acre, down about 6 bushels per acre from last year, the report said.