How farmers and ranchers are bouncing back despite the ongoing drought in western ND

Published: Mar. 9, 2022 at 6:20 PM CST
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - Last year, North Dakota suffered one of the worst droughts the state has ever seen.

One bad year can be devastating for farmers and ranchers, who operate on a year-to-year basis. Now, coming off drought conditions not seen since the dustbowl and facing decades-high inflation, many in the industry can’t afford to have another bad year.

Russell and Bailie Graner ranch and farm south of Mandan. They say ag producers need a win this year.

“They need it real bad because you can get by one year, you can do a lot of things to make it work. But two years, that’s gonna put a lot of guys out of business,” he said.

Last year’s drought was difficult, but Russell says this winter has also been challenging.

“It was tough, you just didn’t know if you’re gonna be able to keep your cows or not. Every day you’re worried about it. It kinda made you scared, you didn’t know what was gonna happen to them,” said Graner.

Based on trends and predictions from climatologists, there should be more precipitation this year than in 2021.

“The hard part is nobody really knows what the weather is going to do,” said Mark Watne, president of North Dakota Farmers Union.

Mark Watne says this year will be one to watch.

“It’s really an interesting year. We’ve got plenty of high-price supply products, we’ve got good markets. But you’re seeding into dry soil in spots. It’s going to be an interesting dilemma for them to determine if they’re going to fertilize at levels they would expect or not,” said Watne.

State officials are concerned about the impact high energy and fertilizer prices will have on farmers and ranchers.

“When the costs of energy go up like they have, fertilizer goes through the roof. That drives up their costs, so you’re seeing better commodity prices, obviously, which is of course a concern from the consumer side with inflation. But that’s all eaten up in terms of the farmer because of these high input costs,” said Senator John Hoeven.

Something that’ll help in terms of drought relief? Federal funding for farmers and ranchers that comes from WHIP+, a weather-related disaster relief program. Those payments are set to be made soon.

One bright spot going into this year’s planting season? With commodity prices as high as they’ve ever been, farmers have a “tremendous amount of potential income,” which is a much-needed change after last year’s drought. Representatives from Farmers Union say high commodity prices could potentially offset all of the extra costs farmers face this year.

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