FARGO, N.D. — North Dakota farm fields were golden last year, with the total value of crops reaching a historic high of almost $11 billion and several crops setting individual value records.
The previous record for total production value was about $7.5 billion in 2010.
In 2011, the total value of crops produced in North Dakota was about $6 billion.
One of the North Dakota crops that set a production value record last year was corn at $2.9 billion. Others included soybeans, dry beans, spring wheat and canola.
Jerry Melvin, who has farmed near Buffalo in western Cass County since about 1969, said 2011 and 2012 were good to him and he's optimistic 2013 will follow suit, though he said even the best plans can be undermined by weather extremes.
As in past years, Melvin plans to plant corn as part of his farm's mix of crops. He has doubts the rest of the country will be as big on corn as it has been, in part because strengthening cotton prices could entice some farmers to switch.
Wet conditions that prevented millions of farm acres from being planted was the main difference between 2011 and 2012, said Darin Jantzi, director of the North Dakota field office of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Ag Statistics Service.
"We had 5.6 million acres that didn't go in the ground (in 2011) because of all of our flooding problems in the northwestern part of the state and almost the whole northern part of the state," Jantzi said.
Drier conditions prevailed in North Dakota in 2012, he said, adding that the state has largely escaped the arid conditions plaguing many areas of the Upper Midwest.
"Compared to a lot of states south of us, the drought isn't as bad," Jantzi said.
North Dakota's relatively dry and warm winter of 2011-2012 enabled farmers to start fieldwork last March 2, 34 days earlier than the 2011 starting date of May 7 and 22 days ahead of the five-year average, Jantzi said.
While there have been heavy snows this winter, Jantzi doesn't expect they will adversely affect spring fieldwork.
"It's good from the standpoint of moisture, being it was a little dry last year," he said.
"It could delay (planting) a little bit, but we still have a little time for it to melt and get into the ground," Jantzi said.
He said his agency is collecting information from area growers on what they expect to plant this year, and a report will be issued at the end of the month.