Growth in North Dakota Wine

The wine industry is up and coming in North Dakota.

“Really, this is a brand new industry for North Dakota and it’s kind of part of the value added ag program. We’re pretty excited about the potential of where it’s going,” said Randy Albrecht, president of the North Dakota Grape and Wine Association and owner of Wolf Creek Winery. The association has been around since 2006 and boasts over a hundred individual members.

The North Dakota Grape Growers Association was established to promote viticulture in the state. To reflect the needs of the growing membership the name was changed in 2012 to the North Dakota Grape and Wine Association. Members span the range from hobby growers and winemakers to commercial farmers and wineries, and even those who are not in the business but love wine and fruit.

While wineries may be on the smaller end of North Dakota agriculture, Albrecht said the number of vineyards and wineries is growing.

“There’s currently about 16 licensed commercial wineries, a meadery, and a cidery,” he said. “I don’t know the exact number of vineyards in North Dakota, but we have 20 member vineyards in our association.”

He explained growing wine grapes in North Dakota is a little different from the nation’s top wine state of California, for the obvious reason of the extreme difference in weather.

“We grow a little bit different kind of grape. We don’t have the heat and the degree days to be growing the cabernets and moscatos,” he said. “We work with hybrid grapes.

There is a lot that goes into making sure wine grapes can grow in North Dakota. Albrecht said they partner with North Dakota State University on plant breeding research. In fact, NDSU has a bit of promising research in wine grapes and has even been published in some of the trade’s leading magazines.

As for this year in North Dakota, Albrecht said things look good for the hybrid grapes.

“We’re hoping it will be a good season. We’ve had a good winter. We haven’t had an extremely cold winter. We had some nice snow cover. So, the vines appear to be in good shape for the spring.”

Albrecht’s final word on the wine industry in North Dakota: “The wine that’s being grown in North Dakota is very good wine.”


Soybean Farmers Experience ‘Land of #Cropportunity’ at Commodity Classic

What do animal feed, biodiesel, frying oil, adhesives and tires all have in common? They include U.S. soy, thanks to innovative investments made by U.S. soybean farmers and their soy checkoff. 

At Commodity Classic, farmers learned more about the new uses, research programs, markets and more that create each #Cropportunity, or profit opportunity, for U.S. soybean farmers. 

“U.S. soy is no longer just a rotational crop – it’s grown to be a big profit-driver on the farm,” says United Soybean Board (USB) Chair Lewis Bainbridge, a soybean farmer from Ethan, South Dakota. “Because farmers invest in their checkoff, USB can identify and capture profit opportunities, leading to the strong growth we’ve seen in both supply of and demand for U.S. soy.”

Maximizing profit opportunities for U.S. soybean farmers is a persistent mission for the soy checkoff. During the show, USB invited farmers to visit the USB booth to speak with their soy checkoff farmer-leaders about what they see as the next big #Cropportunity for U.S. soy. 

“Innovation is critical to take farmer profitability to the next level,” says Bainbridge. “Farmers should know that every day, their checkoff works to find a new marketplace solution and uncover a new #Cropportunity.”

USB’s 73 farmer-directors work on behalf of all U.S. soybean farmers to achieve maximum value for their soy checkoff investments. These volunteers invest and leverage checkoff funds in programs and partnerships to drive soybean innovation beyond the bushel and increase preference for U.S. soy. That preference is built on U.S. soybean meal and oil composition and the sustainability of U.S. soy. As stipulated in the federal Soybean Promotion, Research and Consumer Information Act, the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service has oversight responsibilities for USB and the soy checkoff.

New Research into Honeybee Health

The health of North Dakota’s honeybees is important not just in the Northern Plains, but all over the nation. North Dakota is the nation’s leading honey supplier and the state has more honeybees than any other. North Dakota Ag Commissioner Doug Goehring said those facts mean his department pays close attention the health of honeybees.

“I would say overall bee health is pretty good,” he said. “The last three or four years, we’ve been working with the beekeepers and we’ve been working with the National Agricultural Genotyping Center to identify other causes of bee death.”

That genotyping center is located in Fargo. Goehring said working with the center is proving beneficial.

“I was quite impressed and excited about the fact that they identified four or five other viruses that potentially could be causing colony collapse disorder or at least a lot of mortality in the bee population,” he said.

“We’re hopeful that we can put a lot of this to rest, because if we can identify a cause then we no longer have to continue to speculate or have certain elements in our society that continue to speculate and say that agriculture is the problem,” Goehring explained. “When in the reality, agriculture is probably the answer with respect to bee health.”

The center is continuing its research into the causes of bee health decline.

He says the state will continue to promote its pollinator plan and maintaining best practices for bee health.

“We will continue to do health inspections on bees, continue to take samples, and work with the bee keepers to ensure that they can safely move their product, the bees, wherever they need to go,” he said.

ND, CA Working Together for Bees

North Dakota Agriculture commissioner Doug Goehring is working with California’s agriculture secretary Karen Ross on a new program that will benefit both states when it comes to honeybees.

California needs honeybees to pollinate most of its crops, many of which are now in the spring bud break season. The majority of those honeybees come from North Dakota.

Commissioner Goehring pointed out there can be some issues when trucks carrying the bees hit the California border.

“We have trucks piled up for border inspections for five, six, I’ve heard several hours,” he said. He explained some of the issues those hold ups can cause for the bees. “If it happens during a warm part of the day it can cause those bees, first of all, to start swarming and start to overheat. It can cause more death losses and more problems. It really comes down to making sure that we’re concerned about the health of the bees and also the welfare of the bees.”

Commissioner Goehring said he is working with Secretary Ross to fix the problem.
“If we could do some inspections back here, and find a comfort with all that, there’s the potential to have paperwork provided to the border inspection when the trucks enter California,” he said. “If it’s been signed off on and we have this joint agreement on inspections then we should be able to help make the flow of bees into California for pollination services much easier.”

Despite the two states working together, there are quite a few steps involved. Goehring says they’re trying to have the fix for this year, but it could be the 2019 pollination season before it goes into effect.

Another Delay in California FMMO Quest

The nation’s largest dairy-producing state is facing another delay in an attempt to create a new federal milk marketing order.

California produces more milk than any other state in the U.S., but producers there receive less for their milk than those in any other state. Dairy in California is under a state marketing order, rather than federal. For more than two years, the dairy industry has sought the creation of a new federal milk marketing order. The first hearings started in September, 2015.

The process is now delayed, awaiting a decision from the Supreme Court on a related legal matter. It involves the employment status of Administrative Law Judge Jill Clifton, who presided over that September 2015 hearing. In question is whether Administrative Law Judges are inferior officers of the United States, or employees.

According to the USDA, if it is determined the Administrative Law Judges are inferior officers rather than employees, then ALJ Clifton’s original appointment as an ALJ would be brought into question.

A decision is expected this summer, and until that is settled, the decision on a federal milk marketing order for California is on hold.

U.S. Barley Faces Trade Challenges

Doyle Lentz is a barley grower in the Rolla, North Dakota area and a representative with the North Dakota Barley Council. During an interview at the 2018 KMOT Ag Expo in Minot, he said the barley industry is coming off nine years of strong crops but is facing some challenges with trade.

“Barley is a contracted crop. About 90 percent of the production is under contract,” he explained, “We’ve had exceptional crops the last nine years in a row, so the supply of barley right now, like other commodities, is through the roof. Consequently, the contracts are level at best. Maybe a little bit down.”

Lentz said there are some trade opportunities with Mexico, but those opportunities are stalled along with the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

“Maybe if we can get NAFTA wrapped up, we can expand the acreage again,” he said.
Mexico and Canada are top priorities for the U.S. barley industry. More than 95 percent of barley exports from the United States are to those two countries. Canada gets barley for feed, while Mexico gets barley for malt. That malt ultimately becomes Mexico’s famous beers.

Mexico is a top producer of beer and it is also a deficit country when it comes to barley. Producers there are not able to grow enough barley for the breweries, so the country must supplement through trade with other countries.

“They were getting it from us,” Lentz said. “Unfortunately, the European Union is putting a lot of pressure on them right now given the climate we’re under right now with NAFTA. (Mexico) wants assurances with NAFTA, they don’t particularly want a wall, and they want the beer to come back into this country.”

According to the U.S. Trade Representative’s Office, Mexico is the United State’s third top largest good trading partner and Canada is the second. The European Union ranks first, when considered as a group.

Despite the stalls with NAFTA that could jeopardize trade with Canada and Mexico, Lentz remains optimistic.

“Hopefully we can get this put away, so we can get back to business as normal.”
North Dakota is one of the nation’s top barley-producing states.

Learning the Business of Farming

There’s a lot to keep up with when it comes to the business of farming. Keith Knudson is a Farm Business Management Instructor at the Dakota College at Bottineau. He said the college has programs made for farmers in all aspects of the business.

“We work with more than 500 farmers across the state of North Dakota, working with them on their financial statements and the financial situations that they currently have,” he said. “We help them look back on last year’s financials and compare that with other farmers in their area. Then we also help them work with where they’re going next year and help them work with cash flow statements so that they know when they need the money they need in order to keep farming.”

He said of keen interest is how to keep the family business running for generations to come.

“Succession planning is very important and so we have a program that helps farmers allow them to pass their farm on to their children and their children’s children. It’s very important because we want to keep farms in North Dakota and keep them with the families,” he said.

Knudson explained the classes teach the farmers about several aspects of financial planning.

“Farmers can learn about different types of record keeping systems. They can learn what to look for in the next year as far as costs go. We also help them work with their taxes or Schedule F forms, too,” he said.

With last year’s tax season coming up, Knudson said it’s a good time to be thinking about how to make this year better.

“There’s always planning for this year, of course,” he said. “Last year is pretty much behind us now, so as far as what they can do for last year, it’s a little bit late. But, we always like to help them plan, especially as far as their capital equipment purchases go. We also have a pretty good idea of how markets are going next year so we can help them plan accordingly.”

Farmers and others who are interested in the classes can contact Dakota College and ask about the farm business management classes.