Douglas farmer reflects on rough soybean crop amid drought, looks to next year

Published: Oct. 7, 2021 at 7:27 PM CDT
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DOUGLAS, N.D. – North Dakota is the nation’s eighth largest producer of soybeans.

According to National Agricultural Statistics Service, North Dakota produced more than $2 billion worth of the crop in 2020, with roughly 34 bushels per acre.

But this year, some farmers are lucky to see even 12 bushels per acre due to the statewide drought.

Grace Kraemer spoke with a Douglas farmer about his experiences with the crop this year. Bob Finken has been farming soybeans for more than a decade, and this year is just short of a catastrophe.

“The plants are short. They don’t have a lot of pods on them and then they don’t feed into the combine as well either because they are just so short they don’t want to get up on the draper header,” said Finken.

On a good year, these crops yield 40 bushels per acre, but this year is anything but good. Finken farms more than 2,200 hundred acres of soybeans, and this year, he says he may be losing more than $135 per acre.

“Without the revenue type crop insurance, it would be devastating for most farmers because you don’t have that much equity built up in order to sustain losing over a $100 an acre over a considerable number of acres,” said Finken.

“Pretty much. Especially when some of the fields are doing five to seven bushels an acre, it hardly pays to harvest them except to clean up the field,” said Finken, when asked if he’d call this a crop failure for soybeans.

While the numbers are down for soybeans this year in the region, it may not have a ripple effect across our U.S. exports.

“I don’t see that there will be any exports that will be less or detrimental for us in North Dakota. I think there will be enough beans that we will still be able to keep exporting them, but it kind of depends on what happens around the rest the country,” said Chris Brossart, a chairman with the North Dakota Soybean Council.

And, in true farmer fashion, Finken stays positive, and looks forward to the next planting season.

China is one of the largest buyers for U.S. soybeans. Prices for soybeans right now is around $12 a bushel, which is traditionally a good price, but if China decides to not buy as many soybeans from the U.S. and looks elsewhere, that could mean more trouble for North Dakota farmers.

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