BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — About 2 million acres of North Dakota cropland — or roughly 10 percent — did not get planted this year because of flooding caused by spring snowmelt and heavy rains, according to federal Farm Service Agency estimates.
The agency that administers federal farm programs says 2 million acres of unseeded land would be the third-highest amount in state records that go back 15 years, behind 3.9 million acres in 1999 and 2.1 million in 2001. It would be a big blow to farmers and the state's economy.
"It's the difference between having a crop to sell at market vs. a smaller payment on your ... crop insurance," said Aaron Krauter, state FSA director. "Every producer out there, they want a crop to sell."
Still, the number of unplanted acres is too small to affect crop prices nationwide and likely has already been factored into government production estimates based on farmer surveys that are closely watched by the commodity markets.
Northeastern North Dakota's Cavalier County appears to be hardest hit, with about 220,000 acres left idle — about one-fourth of the county's cropland, Krauter said.
George Balsdon has been farming near Osnabrock in that county since the 1940s.
"This is the wettest I've ever seen," said Balsdon, 77, who farms with his two sons and said they were able to seed only about half of their 8,000 acres of wheat and canola last spring. "We just got going (with planting) and we got a 3-inch rain. Then we just got going again and we got a 2-inch rain.
"We didn't get half the farm in," he said. "A lot of neighbors didn't get anything in."
Farmers who can't get their crops in the ground because of weather can collect a "prevented planting" payment through their crop insurance. Balsdon says he does not yet know what compensation he and his sons will get but the payments are usually much less than what farmers could get by growing and selling a crop.
The FSA estimate of unplanted acres is based on the number of acres enrolled in federal farm programs that did not get seeded, Krauter said. The federal Risk Management Agency, which handles crop insurance programs, makes similar calculations based on actual insurance claims.
Tim Delaney, the RMA's deputy regional director in Billings, Mont., said that agency will not have figures until later this year.
The FSA estimates show corn took the biggest hit from flooding in North Dakota, with about 588,000 acres going unseeded, followed by wheat with 488,000 acres unplanted and soybeans with 355,000 unseeded acres.