North Dakota grain farmers worried about quality

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Farm Forum

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) – North Dakota farmers are growing increasingly concerned about crop quality as the small grains harvest progresses.

Barley farmers are facing the prospect of malting companies not wanting their grain, and wheat growers face the possibility that grain elevators won’t accept some of their crops.

A cool, wet summer has led to sprouting problems and crop disease concerns, and some farmers are worried they won’t even be able to get all of their crops into the bin after a wet August.

“There are more standing (crops) than harvested small grains in my area,” Mark Seastrand, a barley grower in northeastern North Dakota, told The Bismarck Tribune.

Quality concerns include vomitoxin, a toxin associated with scab disease that can make grain unsafe for people and animals to eat. Barley is used for beer and wheat for bread products. Both also are used for livestock feed.

Jim McCullough just finished harvesting barley on his central North Dakota farm and quickly turned to his wheat crop, still standing in the field.

“We basically lost the whole month of August,” he said.

Many North Dakota farmers were expecting bumper crops. The most recent federal Agriculture Department estimates, released in mid-August, projected the spring wheat crop to be up 16 percent over last year, to 273 million bushels. The state leads the nation in the production of that crop, and is the second-leading producer of barley, behind Idaho.

“At this point we’re trying to maintain vigilance and get the crop off the field,” said Steven Edwardson, executive administrator of the North Dakota Barley Council.