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A North Dakota disaster-Ray Grabanski

This week's rain events, across the northern Plains and North Dakota, likely ended the planting season for the state, leaving a tremendous amount of unplanted HRS wheat, barley, and durum acreage unseeded for the year.  

While much was made during the season about the plight of corn acreage (and USDA cut corn planted acreage 1.5 million acres), in the final analysis Pro Ag figures it was the small grains that took the brunt of the loss in planted acreage from intentions. 

In ND, roughly 20 million acres are typically available for planting the nine major crops (and 2.5 mln acres of hay harvested), but it appears that the best estimate of unplanted acreage is about 25% of the total available acreage.  That means essentially up to 5 million acres of production were lost in ND.  But little of that will be corn acreage, where all the attention was placed, and instead it's likely that perhaps only about 10-13% of corn acreage was lost. When applied to the intended 2.5 million acres of corn, leaving only about 300,000 acres of corn unplanted. 

However, the numbers get larger when you consider crops such as durum or HRS wheat unplanted acreage. You see, it wasn't the eastern third of ND (where soybeans and corn are planted) that had the most prevented planting (which is typically the case, the east being the wetter portion of the state).  Instead, the eastern third probably had only about 10-15% of total acreage left unplanted, and it's likely the way the season unfolded that most of that land lost was HRS wheat and barley acreage, as there really was no early season of planting.  Instead, farmers launched right into corn planting, and much of that got done or was switched to soybean acreage. If 10% of soybean acreage was lost (perhaps high with soybeans being a crop that would have gained acreage from late planting), with 4.35 million intended acreage that would be a loss of 435,000 acres.  

The middle-third of the state essentially probably had about 25% of the land unplanted, with some large segments in certain areas (it's estimated that Ward County in Minot, ND only got about 30% or so of its acreage planted).  From Minot to Bismarck, it appears there were problems with planting all the way, which is unusual for this typically relatively dry area.

The worst affected area was essentially typically the driest, the western third of the state, with estimates ranging from 25% to 50% of the land remaining unplanted, with the southwest suffering considerable losses in acreage in certain areas.  Essentially, this is mostly HRS wheat and barley acreage that was lost, with some sunflowers and a little corn mixed into the pot with the other major ND crops.   

But perhaps the greatest surprise yet expected is in the durum market, where ND indicated it was to plant 1.6 million acres in the March intentions.  It's likely that at least half or more of those acres will remain unplanted, so that's a loss of 800,000 acres in durum alone! That compares to the recent June estimate of only 300,000 acres lost to PP for all of spring planted wheat.   

Clearly, USDA is way off the mark here.  It's likely that at least 25% of HRS wheat acreage also was lost, and ND typically plants about 7.1 million acres of HRS wheat. So, it's likely that 1.775 million acres or more of HRS wheat was lost to PP.  The numbers for the other ND crops include total March 30 intended acreage of 690,000 acres of barley (25% unplanted is 172,000 acres), canola acreage of 1.42 million (or 355,000 acres of PP), 775,000 acres of sunflowers (193,000 PP), 380,000 acres of flax (and 95,000 PP), 450,000 acres of dry beans (and 15% or 67,500 acres PP), and 240,000 acres of oats (or 60,000 acres PP).  

Net, with 5 million acres blank this year of which includes: 800,000 acres of durum PP, 1.775 mln. HRS PP, 300,000 acres of corn PP, 435,000 acres soybeans PP, 172,000 barley PP, 355,000 acres canola PP, and 193,000 acres sunflowers PP, and 100,000 flax PP, and 68,000 dry beans PP, it's clear that ND suffered a planting disaster in 2011 unequalled in modern history (the worst PP to date was about 4 million acres).  

So, there will be some big surprises in the upcoming June 30 actual planting report, and if not caught in those numbers there will be solid surprises in wheat, barley, and durum planted acreage in an expected October update.  It's uncertain how this will affect markets, as the tumble in corn prices this week has triggered large scale liquidation in wheat prices as well.  

But durum might be a different matter.  It's likely that durum prices could double from earlier this year, and essentially should be twice the HRS wheat price in no time at all. 

Since ND is important in sunflowers, canola, flax, and dry beans the impacts on these minor crops also might be greater.  

But it's the durum growers who toughed out the planting season that could be rewarded with $20-$25/bushel durum prices in 2011, as no crop was more impacted than durum (Canada also has its problems).  The rewards will be great for those who persevered, or simply were blessed with the right type of weather.  For those growers, 2011 will be a very good year indeed!!!  

But for corn and soybean growers, since ND was the most impacted state in 2011, and ND isn't that important in the overall picture of the corn/soybean national production, these two crops will see the least market impact in 2011.  At least, the impact will be much less than in crops that ND is more important in such as durum, HRS wheat, barley, sunflowers, canola, flax, or dry beans.  

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Ray Grabanski is President of Progressive Ag, a marketing and risk 

management firm for farmers located in Fargo, ND.  For questions or 

comments, or if you are interested in more information about 

Progressive Ag services, call 1-800-450-1404. 

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