Cornvention: ND’s E15 promo succeeded in Bismarck, challenges seen

Kent Satrang, chief executive officer of PetroServe USA, based in Moorhead, Minn., says his company’s promotion of E15 ethanol blends and other “mid-level” blends nearly tripled the sales of those products in Bismarck, N.D., in the last four months of 2013,  and more than doubled them in the Fargo area. Photo taken Feb. 19, 2014, at the Cornvention in Fargo.

See Agweek, Feb. 24, 2014, for details about the Cornvention, the North Dakota Soybean Expo, in Fargo, and the International Crops Expo (ICE) in Grand Forks, N.D.


Livestock Indemnity Program expedited, helps those hit by Oct. 4 storm

It’s in the farm bill, and now Sen. Heidi Heitkamp is among those trying to expedite Livestock Indemnity relief to ranchers hit by recent weather disasters, including the Oct. 4, 2013, blizzard.

To sign up for disaster relief, North Dakotans should contact their local USDA Farm Service Agency Office. Applications will begin being accepted in 60 days, and ranchers will need documentation of their losses.  For more information, visit here, Heitkamp notes.

In the 2014 Farm Bill, which was signed into law on Feb. 7. Heitkamp was one of those pushing to include a permanent livestock disaster program so that ranchers can survive catastrophic losses. In October 2013, winter storm Atlas, an unexpected early fall blizzard, killed more than 43,000 livestock in South Dakota alone (see Agweek, Feb. 7) , includingcattle, sheep, horses and bison in the Dakotas and Nebraska.   The disaster relief is backdated to October 2011, so North Dakota’s ranchers who experienced losses last year will be covered up to 75 percent, capped at $125,000 per individual and $250,000 per couple.


Goehring and the NDFB must be pondering primary, petition numbers



It will be interesting to see how Doug Goehring defends his North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner post in the face of opposition from the North Dakota Farm Bureau.

Goehring says he’ll run in the June primary, to become the Republican candidate.

But first he’ll  try to get the Republican party endorsement at the April convention.

If either Goehring or NDFB-backed challenger Judy Estenson of Warwick, N.D., fails to get party endorsement which runs April 5 to April 6 in Minot, N.D., either one could run in the primary as a second Republican on the ballot. They’d need to collect  300 signatures and turn them in to the Secretary of State’s office by 4 p.m. on April 7 to do that. (I’m thinking that if Estenson fails to secure the endorsement, the NDFB would make sure she is on the ballot in June.) Both parties may be pondering how to collect the 300 signatures as you read this.

Whoever loses the primary would be disqualified in the general election, unless they’re running for something else. You can’t be on  the same ballot in the election cycle for the same office, according to the North Dakota Secretary of State’s office

Of course there’s  an alternative.

If either candidate fails to get the party endorsement they could skip the primary election and go to the Nov. 4 general election – but only as an independent. This would require 1,000 signatures on a petition by Sept. 1, at 4 p.m.

Will that task may be a bit easier today than in the past, because of the uptick in the state’s population? Don’t count on it. 

National Potato Council exec calls farm bill a win for specialty crops


Here’s one of my “pole” pictures of a process potato harvest operation in 2012 near Kathryn, N.D. The Red River Valley is famous for tablestock, process, chip and seed potato industry.


National Potato Council Executive Vice president and chief executive officer John Keeling speaks at 9 a.m., Feb. 19, in  Grand Forks, N.D., for the International Ag Expo. Look for Agweek pre-stories in the Feb. 17 issue and for coverage in the Feb. 24 issue.

Keeling this week said the newly-passed  federal farm bill was a “tremendous victory for potato growers and our specialty crop partners.” It includes a 55 percent increase in new resources for the specialty crop priorities, making it “the most significant government investment ever in the competitiveness of the fruit and vegetable industry.

  • · An increase to $80 million in annual mandatory funding for the Specialty Crop Research Initiative, which has provided funding for critical potato research, including zebra chip, acrylamide, and potato virus Y;
  • · An increase to $72.5 million in FY 2014-2017 and $85 million in FY 2018 in funding for Specialty Crop Block Grants, which provide funding for state-specific projects that can promote and research potatoes;
  • · Reauthorization of $200 million per year in Market Access Program funding, which provides funding for specialty crops, including potatoes, to promote U.S. agriculture in foreign markets; and,
  • · Reauthorization of $9 million per year in Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops funding, which addresses foreign market access barriers that block the export of U.S. agricultural products, including potatoes, from their intended destinations.

 “Once the odd man out, the specialty crop industry earned respect in Washington, D.C.,” said, describing his own work and that of “growers, state associations and industry partners” who worked on the bill.


American Crystal CEO lauds Collin Peterson in sugar program win

In an op-ed written by the American Sugar Alliance, it was noted that David Berg, president and chief executive officer of American Crystal Sugar Co. of Moorhead, Minn., was invited to attend last Friday’s presidential farm bill signing in Michigan, home to U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., chairman of the Senate Agricultrue Committee.
Berg credited Stabenow, but also Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., ranking Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee.
“Minnesotans and North Dakotans are blessed with elected leaders that understand agriculture and the importance of a strong farm policy,” Berg said. “The sugar provisions in this bigll give us a chance against low prices and foreign subsidies, and it wouldn’t have been possible without them.”
John Hundley, a farmer and chairman of Sugar Cane Growers of Florida, lauded sugar as “the cheapest major commodity policy in America.” Large confectioners spent millions trying to gut the policy, which the sugar alliance says “would have left America dependent on heavily-subsidized foreign sugar suppliers.” The industry claims to support 142,000 jobs.

What did Goehring do to draw the ire of his old buddies at the ND Farm Bureau?

I took this picture of Doug Goehring when he hosted an Environmental Protection Agency visit at his farm near Menoken, N.D., in 2010.


It will be fascinating to learn what North Dakota Ag Commissioner Doug Goehring has done to draw the ire of the North Dakota Farm Bureau.

A media advisory on Feb. 3 announces a news conference today at the Ramada Inn, announcing the intentions of Judy Estenson to file for his office. I’ll miss it, but the event is being handled by Dawn Pfeifer, who handles communications for the NDFB in Fargo. This makes it look like the right-leaning organization has a new horse in the 2014 race in which Goehring will try to defend his position. Republican district conventions start next week.


Goehring, of course, was the former NDFB vice president under Eric Aasmundstad of Devils Lake. At the same time he served as president of the Nodak Mutual Insurance Co., as Aasmundstad served as its vice president, through some difficult times for the company.

Goehring tried to be ag commissioner when Democrat-NPL man Roger Johnson was commissioner. It was only when Johnson left the scene to become president of the National Farmers Union, that Goehring was appointed to the position by now Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D. When the NDFB threw some of its political action committee money behind Goehring in 2010, he beat state Rep. Merle Boucher, D-Rolette.

So, what has Goehring done to make the NDFB so mad that they’d challenge a sitting ag commissioner – one of the three members of the North Dakota Industrial Commission, one who has championed the property rights and oil and gas interests that the organization often aligns with?

Was it too much support of animal cruelty felony penalties in the 2013 legislature? Not enough opposition (even though NDFB gave kudos to the North Dakota Stockmen’s Association for their work on the bill). Not enough time for former president Aasmundstad who was then a NDFB lobbyist? Or maybe Goehring didn’t voice enough support to the NDFB’s right-to-farm efforts?

A Google search of Estenson doesn’t offer many hints of why she’s the chosen one.  She once wrote a letter to the editor, blasting the Forum of Fargo-Moorhead for supporting the animal measure. I tried to reach her through her farm number at Warwick, N.D., which is south of Devils Lake near Stump Lake National Refuge. But no one immediately called back. (Cell is 701-936-0686, if you’re interested, Ms. Estenson.)

So, what’s happened here?

Did Goehring hire the wrong person at some point? Too many South Dakotans? (Hey, I’m from South Dakota.)

He seems to have picked people with close ties to the NDFB. Goehring’s deputy commissioner, Tom Bodine, of Minot, has a North Carolina degree, but he farmed in North Dakota and held a NDFB leadership post before taking the deputyship. Britt Aasmundstad from Devils Lake is a policy analyst in the department.

Did Goehring on too many trade missions, peddling North Dakota soybeans, corn, pulse and specialty crops? Say the wrong thing sometime or another? Try too hard to protect honeybees?

Whatever: The NDFB has been looking for someone to run against Goehring and they’ve found Estenson. Such a move would likely be vetted before the NDFB’s council of county presidents.

It’ll be fascinating for the relatively few North Dakotans who know much about  the office, even though it has extensive regulatory influence over farmers. Occupants of the office have won their votes through elevating their public image with the population centers — cheerleading for farmers and ranchers, helping them to throw away unused chemicals, and helping the state’s folk businesses sell  things at Christmas.

It is interesting to imagine what Warwick might do differently than Goehring, and how much the conservatives will spend to beat each other. Or maybe Goehring will just get the message – whatever that is.

Relcore - computer help for ….



Farmers show curiosity at first formal “industrial beet” commercialization meets

Randy Grueneich, Barnes County Extension Service ag agent. Photographed Jan. 28, 2014, at Valley City, N.D.

Dave Ripplinger, an agricultural economist from North Dakota State University, speaks about their interest in producing “industrial beets” at a group of about 40 farmers at the Valley City, N.D., on Jan. 28. Green Vision is promoting raising beets outside of the Red River Valley for ethanol and other products, but not refined sugar.

The North Dakota State University Extension Service seems to be especially helpful to the Green Vision folks who are preparing the groundwork for “industrial beets.” It’s not an entirely new crop to the region, but it is new to growing areas outside of the Red River Valley, and the markets are not entirely set, so there is a lot of curiosity.

Randy Grueneich, the NDSU Extension Service county agent for Barnes County attended the Jan. 28 meeting in Valley City, N.D., where about 30 to 40 farmers  were asked about their interest in the enterprise – either growing beets for it, or perhaps investing in a project , on the assumption it would arrive.

Greueneich says the organization is looking for 30,000 acres of production in a 20-mile radius. There is a lot of curiosity of how sugar beets would work in rotations in out-state North Dakota, beyond traditional beet-to-refined sugar production in the Red River Valley.

“One thing they covered today is, ‘Do they work in rocks?’” Grueneich says. Farmers are also interested in how the company addresses the need for harvest-time labor. In the end, he said farmers may look for greater returns than they’d otherwise expect from corn because of “more risk and unfamiliarity” with the crop, compared to what they’re used to.

Bruce Anderson who farms west of Valley City, says he’d like to know more cost of production, what advantage it would be financially, and what it would do to his herbicide rotations. “Some of the stuff we use for beans and corn and wheat, we have to be aware of three or four years out,” Anderson says. The “Extreme” chemical, which is a combination of “Pursuit” and “Roundup” would have a 40-month restriction. “We’ve been using it the last two years because we’ve been using it on our soybeans because it’s good for keeping down dandelions on no-till.”

Anderson says he has friends that drive beet trucks for the traditional fall campaign in the Fargo, and knows how involved and intense the sugar beet campaign is.

Al Wittenberg of Valley City, N.D.,  said he’d like the opportunity to own stock, so he can either make money on the crop or the products a plant would produce. “Nobody here knows the labor-intensive requirement to do this,” he says. He’s wary of how many farmers can handle 1,000 acres of beets.

Another farmer in his 20s said he’d be interested in how the plant will determine the price of beets, and who would own the plant. He says he doesn’t know which would be better, but he’d be skeptical of the interest if an outside owner pegs beet prices off of corn. “If it’s like growing corn, you don’t have any risk diversity,” he says. “If you own the plant the pricing wouldn’t be as important. If the plant is making the money the grower will make money.”

Look for a more extensive story in Agweek, Feb. 3, or at

American Crystal Sugar Co. back at drying pulp with natural gas


American Crystal Sugar Co. temporarily loaded pressed pulp for shipment to area livestock feeders because it couldn’t dry the stuff to make into pellets, because of a natural gas pipe explosion and failure in Canada. I took this photo when it was about 20 below zero Fahrenheit on Jan. 26.


American Crystal Sugar Co. back to normal on natural gas for drying pulp?


American Crystal Sugar Co. had been reduced to using its biogas methane production to dry its pulp byproducts because of a natural gas pipeline explosion near Winnipeg, Man. The picture above shows loaders taking the pressed pulp product away from the Moorhead, Minn., factory, to stockpile on a beet pile slab.

David Berg, president and chief executive officer, confirmed on Jan. 27 that the company was authorized to resume its drying with natural gas as the pipeline was restored to service.

Separately, the company is also facing a railroad issue – an overflowing of sugar inventories in some factories because bulk sugar cars have been slow this winter. Berg says hundreds of empty cars stand empty on tracks, somewhere between Crystal and its major markets in the east. He and others in agriculture wonder how much the burgeoning oil industry is taking crew and track resources away from agriculture.

For stories about the problem, see, or A story is planned for the Jan. 28 issue of the Grand Forks Herald as well as the Feb. 3 issue of Agweek.


Precision Ag event at Jamestown looks at drones, Google Glass, etc.

Will Google Glass — a smartphone on your face — become common for crop consultants in five years? Will unmanned aircraft systems like those below — drones — take a significant role in agriculture in the future? Scientists and others seem to think so. We’ll hear more about that today at the Precision Ag Action Summit today in Jamestown, N.D. Look for other details on and in the Jan. 27 issue of Agweek for stories about what precision agriculture experts, industry insiders  and academics have to say about the developing technologies. The event at the North Dakota Farmers Union in Jamestown drew a crowd that included plenty of younger faces.

Drones, precision hot topics in cold ND. Join me in warm Jamestown.



If you care to look beyond the current economics in agriculture and cold winter, perhaps the world of drone-delivered crop and livestock information is for you.
I myself will be taking in much of the Precision Ag Summit, Jan. 20-21, at the North Dakota Farmers Union headquarters in Jamestown. Look for coverage at in the Jan. 27 issue of Agweek. Here is a link to the agenda:
David Dvorak, chief executive officer of Field of View (see Jonathan Knutson’s cover story in Agweek, July 8, 2013) will be there. Erdal Ozkan, of Ohio State University Extension, will be there, as well as Kevin Price, Kansas State University, are two of the speakers I’m going to focus on. The event has an expanded livestock technology feature.
John Nowatzki, a North Dakota State University Extension Service agricultural engineer who deals with this topic, has been talking about this topic quite a bit as he attends meetings across the region. The University of North Dakota and NDSU are rivals on sports fields but are working cooperatively – feverishly? – to develop work in this topic. Historically, researchers have a heightened interest in topics where grant funding and political is most available, which isn’t always the same as the feasibility of a concept. (Think cellulosic ethanol.)
The interest is certainly there.
I learned that Monsanto on Jan. 14 held an invitation-only event for under-age-35 top growers in the region. The event attracted some 30 growers are associated with operations that account for some 800,000 acres. Simple math: That’s an mean average of 26,000 per, but some operations might not have been that large. The pickups I saw in the parking lot were largely North Dakota and Minnesota, although some may have been rented.
The young farmers met at the Fargo Air Museum and then went over to the Fargodome across the street for a 15-minute demonstration of the drones.
I knocked on the museum to see if I could listen in, but a polite fellow told the meeting wasn’t open to me, either because I’m not in the demo (a joke) or because then it would have had to be open to all of the other ag media. Monsanto’s No. 2 official had jetted into Fargo for it. They were considering issuing a press release.
Regardless: One of the farmers attending the meeting told me some of the highlights, as he remembered them. So the following is hearsay — not necessarily the truth. (Hey, I feel like those radio talk show hosts, who sometimes use a disclaimer.)
Anyway, where’s what my young man said:
• The drone demonstration explained the partnership between NDSU and UND and efforts to get regulations passed for drone operations. The two institutions are working to develop cameras with different imagery and pictures to make some use out of it. The key is to discover identify weed and disease pressure.
• At the Fargodome, the officials had a small, four-blade drone hover around for about 15 minutes. No one handed out literature. In the field, such a vehicle would be kept below 400 feet to comply with FAA regulations. The farmer saw a “Draganflyer.” It was the farmer’s impression this would fly for 30 minutes around a field, operated by remote control or perhaps autonomously with GPS.
• A much larger, more expensive fixed wind aircraft (SkyHawk?) was shown as a static exhibit but not demonstrated for lack of space. This would be used more with a flight plan from coordinates, and not with a flight team.
• University officials of the plan is to fly 500 acres on a Casselton area farm this summer in a $35,000 project funded by the North Dakota Soybean Council. Forms with the Federal Aviation Administration are difficult, in attempt to monitor five soybean fields, looking for iron chlorisis. NDSU will fly the fields weekly and ground-proof anomalies with weed, insect, disease and salinity issues. The idea will be whether aerial will detect problems sooner than ground crews. A separate project hope is to fly another 800 to 1,000 acres at Carrington at the NDSU Research Extension Center, with potential funds from Research North Dakota, with a decision pending this month. N
• One issue with the FAA is who does the work. A farmer can drive through his own fields, launch an aircraft, pending the required crew team, and that can be considered non-commercial and doable if no third party is paid to do the work..
• Officials from all organizations say they need more “interest from growers and farmers” to show the demand and to see if there “want and that there is a value.” I suppose that’s where regulatory and fiscal support for research. The big thing would be developing cameras and developing light waves to detect what farmers want to know, particularly about weed and disease pests. UND officials told farmers they a value of $13 billion in value for agriculture in the first three years.
• There was discussion about whether the aircraft might fly a field, document where weed “escapes” or resistant weeds might be located, and then the same vehicle might spray the spot in the same flight. It could be used where pre-emerge herbicides are used, to “clean up skips.” The farmer wondered whether this would be move cost-effective than on-ground crop consultants or conventional aerial application..
• Monsanto officials, who included Robb Fraley, Monsanto’s chief technology officer from St. Louis, talked about developing corn hybrids and looking at the genetic lineage to find exact matches for a field. This would bring together hybrid, weather, soil type, production history and other information and offer advice on such things as whether side-dress fertilizer might be needed on a hybrid or variety in a particular field. This would involve the company’s FieldScript concept.
• Monsanto talked about new linkages between Monsanto and Winfield in their R7 program, working together on the nitrogen applications, but the farmer didn’t have details. According to Farm Industry News, R7 has been available for Winfield dealers since fall 2011. Verbatim: “It allows growers without extensive yield and soil sampling records to try out variable-rate seeding and fertility. Growers work with their dealers to develop those prescriptions using historical satellite images to identify management zones.”

Relcore – site creation and more…