ND agriculture on world stage

Jill Schramm/MDN N.D. Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring speaks to Minot’s Golden K Kiwanis Wednesday.

North Dakota has prospered on world commodity markets that seek out its high-quality crops, North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring said in speaking to Minot’s Golden K Kiwanis Wednesday.

World markets haven’t been behaving in usual ways lately, though, given the uncertainties with the war between Russia and the bread basket country of Ukraine, which Goehring noted produces 57% of the world’s sunflowers and 27-34% of its wheat.

Farmers were looking at wheat prices of $11 a bushel and rising when they paid premium input costs to plant a crop this spring. Last week prices collapsed to around $8 a bushel locally.

Goehring said brokers say speculators are scared and staying out of the market, having listened to talk about negotiations to let Ukraine’s wheat be exported.

Goehring said it won’t happen because, as people in Ukraine have indicated, they themselves need the limited amount of crop they were able to plant. Even if the war ended, Ukraine would not quickly be back in business, given the supply chain issues, he said.

“It’ll take 10 years,” he said. “On my farm, we waited two weeks for one part, and that tractor sat. Five days for a part on the drill. They have the same equipment over there.”

Prior to Ukraine becoming a major player in the world commodities market, the United States was selling to the Middle East, Goehring said. With the Ukraine no longer a source, Egypt recently purchased from Russia.

“They don’t seem to be coming here, and I’m not quite sure why,” Goehring said, suggesting transportation costs and the value of the dollar possibly are factors.

“But markets should be higher than what they are,” he said. “We are seeing things whipsaw just too much, and now you have a bunch of farmers that are really, really angry because they paid high prices to put this crop in.”

World markets generally are a good thing for North Dakota, which is why the state has been ramping up its ability to build international relationships, expand its footprint and gain recognition for its commodities, Goehring said.

“Ninety-two to 93 percent of all the middle-class growth that they’re talking about in the future is going to take place outside of the United States, and North Dakota is well positioned to bring a lot of those commodities — a lot of those products — to the table and into that global market,” he said.

With multiple trade mission options this year, Goehring already has traveled to Peru and Columbia and worked on issues related to a new trade agreement being negotiated with the United Kingdom.

“Recently, working with the foreign ag service and USDA, we’ve been able to identify that North Dakota products are actually making it into 152 different countries,” he said.

Goehring also responded to questions about agriculture topics in the news.

— The purchase of the Campbell Farm in Walsh County by the Bill Gates Foundation: “It appears as though they might have sought out the Gates Foundation. …The land was actually sold for less than what it would have sold for probably at an auction … It was found to be compliant. There’s nothing illegal there.”

— Plans by a Chinese company, Fufeng, to establish a corn-milling facility at Grand Forks: “Nothing is illegal about it. … It’s not that the United States government isn’t concerned about this, but they said, ‘You do realize that most major governments in the world have satellites?’ Unless you infiltrate a facility directly in person and have access to some files, which they say most are always trying to hack the Defense Department anyways, they probably have more information than you could ever glean or gather being in Grand Forks and next to an Air Force base.”

— Legacy Fund in-state investments: “When you’re looking at projects and investments in North Dakota, it’s not like we have a whole lot of commerce to do or that we have a whole lot of commerce that you can then turn around and make a lot of these investments. Everybody raises their hand and says, ‘Hey come and invest in us.’ But if it was that lucrative, somebody would be doing it already.”

— Meat processing: “We started a program during COVID where we actually utilized federal dollars to help improve capacity and efficiencies in North Dakota. We were able to do it. We actually increased capacity by 236% in two years, but it’s because we made an effort to invest where they needed it.”


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