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Assessing the Wheat Quality Council Tour 2017 Yield Estimate

The annual Wheat Quality Council tour of the spring and durum wheat region took place the week of July 24, with the final yield result sparking questions and sharp criticism, especially in social media circles.  The North Dakota Wheat Commission (NDWC) would like to acknowledge these concerns from producers, assess the crop tour yield estimate, and clarify some misinformation.  The Wheat Quality Council (not the NDWC) conducts the tour, but NDWC staff have taken many calls from producers concerned about the tour results and this has provided an opportunity to clear up some misinformation. Please share this information with producers in your area.  If you have any questions or concerns, please call the NDWC office at 701-328-5111.

ADM Offers Solutions for Salvage Grain

Several producers have reported 2016 durum that is unsalable due to excessive vomitoxin. ADM has offered to pick up the grain and re-direct it to the farmland disposal biomass boiler facility in Enderlin, N.D., free of charge to the producer. ADM is also willing to pay 1 cent per bushel to qualify for crop insurance.


ADM does not want this high infection durum to be returned to the land as it can ruin soil health and potentially harm future crops. If you are interested in this opportunity, contact Guy Christensen with ADM at 701-551- 2871 or

Top End Milling Durum Prices Remain Steady

Courtesy Farm and Ranch Guide

Prices for top end milling quality durum continued to hold steady in the $6.50 per bushel range as January came to a close.

“That indicates there’s still pretty good demand for durum that is high in vitreous kernel counts, low in VOM levels and has protein, but we may have seen a little pressure on the mid- to lower grades,” commented Jim Peterson, marketing director for the North Dakota Wheat Commission on Jan. 25. “Some of those are gapping more than 50 cents a bushel below the top end durum.

“On the bottom end, which is feed quality, the price is ranging from $2.75-$3,” he continued. “But if we look at the Minneapolis durum index, which is maybe not the best barometer, but it’s a barometer of price trends and takes into account more of a slightly below top grade durum…that has slipped a little since early January, down to $5.83 a bushel. We were at $6.20 in early January. That would be our lowest level on the index since mid-October.”

Top Ag News of 2016 courtesy Red River Farm Network

The Number One Agriculture Story of 2016 — Record crops and low prices were a reality this past year. The Red River Farm Network is ranking this combination at the top of its list of the top ten agriculture stories of 2016. After an early start to spring planting, farmers finished the year with big bushels. Oklee, Minnesota farmer J.J. Johnson offered his perspective on yields when we visited with him in October. "We had bean yields 25 percent higher than the best crop we ever had. You get 65 or 70 bushel beans and the farm average is in the 50s." Sugarbeet yields were also high, with many farmers lifting 30-plus ton beets. With the big crop, commodity prices are down. U.S. farm income is down 17 percent from last year. LDP’s were back in vogue in winter wheat country. In addition to large crops, the U.S. dealt with record meat supplies. Cattle futures dropped to a four-year low.

#2: Rural Vote Makes a Difference — Ranking second in the list of top agriculture news stories of 2016 is the election of Donald Trump. Rural voters are credited for helping Trump defeat Hillary Clinton in the race for the White House. Trump won the rural vote with a 62-to-34 percent margin. Clinton had the popular vote, but Trump overwhelmingly won the electorial vote. The U.S. House and Senate maintained a GOP majority.

North Dakota Durum Variety Trial Results - 2016

NDSU has published the Variety Trial results for 2016.

U.S. Durum Demand Projected Highest in Six Years

Overall U.S. durum demand in 2016 is currently projected by USDA to reach 123 million bushels, up slightly from last year, and the highest levels since 133 million bushels in 2010. Increases in both domestic use and exports are anticipated. Domestic use includes food use of 85 million bushels and seed use of 3 million. The domestic food use level of 85 million would be the second highest on record and up from 79 million last year. In 2006, 86 million was used for food. Strong domestic mill demand for high vitreous, low DON, and high grade durum will be a supportive factor for top-end prices. Feed use is currently estimated at zero, but that will likely move higher in subsequent USDA reports due to the greater than normal percent of the crop with high DON levels. Tempering factors in durum feed demand are very cheap corn values and large low protein HRW supplies. Export demand is projected at 35 million bushels, up from 29 million last year. Based on the first four and a half months of the marketing year, this projection seems too high. As of mid-October, U.S. durum export sales are only 7.7 million bushels, well below 19.5 million bushels sold a year ago at this time. Exports have been slow to develop, as exporters attempt to get a handle on available quality and the willingness of importers to pay premiums for the best quality. Our top market is Italy, followed by Nigeria and Algeria, but no sales have been recorded to Morocco

2016 Durum and Hard Red Spring Wheat Quality

The 2016 Northern U.S. durum crop produced in North Dakota and Montana is the largest crop since 2000 and nearly 50 percent larger than the 2015 crop, due to record yields and a one-third increase in planted area. Based on the 210 samples collected in the annual harvest survey, and analyzed by the NDSU durum quality lab, the average grade is a No. 1 Hard Amber Durum. However, there is a greater diversity in quality across the region compared to 2015. The crop average test weight, falling number and vitreous kernel level are all above the 5-yr average, but protein levels and the portion of the crop exceeding 90% vitreous kernels are lower. Roughly sixty percent of the samples make a No. 1 grade but there is a significant difference in DON levels among cropping areas. Southern areas of North Dakota and much of Montana showed zero DON in our survey, while a significant portion of the samples in northern North Dakota and parts of Montana showed elevated DON levels. In those areas, DON is creating marketing challenges for both producers and grain shippers, in meeting the 2 ppm trade standard specification. Laboratory testing of the survey samples for milling, semolina and cooked pasta performance is showing high milling yields and very good semolina color with slightly lower mixing properties. Evaluation of the cooked spaghetti reflects some impact from the lower protein levels and higher DON levels in portions of the crop, with a slight increase in cooking loss, poorer color and slightly lower cooked firmness values.

Is Pasta Healthy?

Courtesy Consumer Reports

The low-carb diet craze is pretty much over, but misconceptions linger. Take pasta, for example. “Pasta doesn't deserve its bad rap for being unhealthy and fattening,” says Amy Keating, R.D., a dietitian in Consumer Reports’ food lab.

On the plus side, regular pasta is made from durum wheat (semolina), a variety that has a higher protein content than most other types.

It’s also a convenient and inexpensive food. And cutting it out of your diet isn’t the magical path to a slimmer you. An analysis of 48 studies published in JAMA found that low-carb and low-fat diets (which tend to be higher in carbohydrates) were equally effective for weight loss, leading the study authors to conclude that the best diet to lose weight is the diet you’re likely to stick with. Nor is there any evidence that people who do not have celiac disease need to avoid pasta because it contains gluten

Pasta Makers Suffer as Canada’s Durum Wheat Fields Get Soggy

Courtesy Bloomberg News

Wet fields in Canada are turning what was supposed to be a stellar crop of durum wheat into a soggy mess, much to the dismay of pasta makers.

The prospects for quality durum have been dashed by rain and snow that has delayed and even halted operations. The wheat that’s stuck outside is vulnerable to disease because of the wet conditions. The high-protein grain makes up the bulk of pasta ingredient expenses, and domestic prices have risen in the last several years after repeated harvest hurdles.

To see the pain for pasta makers, look no further than Chris Curran, the 50-year-old owner of Bagga Pasta, which annually makes 25,000 kilograms (55,000 pounds) of everything from fusilli to linguine in Victoria, British Columbia. The 20-kilogram bags of durum flour she buys now cost about C$30 ($22.44), almost double the C$16 she paid about three years ago. And because of the quality problems for this year’s crop, she’s not expecting prices to fall anytime soon.

“Instead of the price going down as I would’ve expected, it will probably remain the same,” said Curran, who added that it’s the first time in her 30 years of pasta-making that she’s seen this kind of sustained jump in costs. “We’re just a very small company trying to survive amid very high prices.”

USDA Invests $1.7 Billion to Protect Sensitive Agricultural Lands

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will issue nearly $1.7 billion in payments to more than half of a million Americans who have contracts with the government to protect sensitive agricultural lands. The investment, part of the voluntary USDA Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), will allow producers to protect almost 24 million acres of wetlands, grasslands and wildlife habitat in 2016.

CRP provides financial assistance to farmers and ranchers who remove environmentally sensitive land from production to be planted with certain grasses, shrubs and trees that improve water quality, prevent soil erosion, and increase wildlife habitat. In return for enrolling in CRP, USDA, through the Farm Service Agency (FSA), provides participants with rental payments and cost-share assistance. Landowners enter into contracts that last between 10 and 15 years.

Durum Market Continues Holding Pattern of Late

Courtesy Farm & Ranch Guide

It’s more of the same for durum as prices appear to be in a holding pattern they’ve been in for the past few weeks.

“The story continues to be a big durum crop in a lot of areas, but also very poor quality in key parts of the region,” said Jim Peterson, marketing director for the North Dakota Wheat Commission. “Perhaps it’s showing some strength for top end milling quality durum in some markets, but for the most part prices have been holding steady the last couple weeks as the market is still trying to discover the extent of DON impact on the Canadian crop as well as the continued harvest in North Dakota and Montana in the northern areas.”

Cash bids range from a high of $6.35 for top end milling durum, and $5.80 to $6.10 at other locations, all the way down to $2.75 for feed at some elevators. That makes it a challenge for durum producers on just what is the value of their harvest this year, Peterson noted.

“It’s certainly frustrating because it’s a big crop and they’re getting big bushels, but they’re unable to market it because it doesn’t fall below the maximum DON requirements for milling contracts, and it can fall quickly to lower prices,” he said. “There’s a lot of uncertainty. Hopefully over the next few weeks we can take some variability out of prices, although the wide spread between the high and low prices will likely stay with us for a sustained period.”

Toxin May Lift Durum Wheat Prices Despite Huge North American Harvest

Courtesy Reuters

But pasta lovers might not feel the pinch.

The swaying durum crops on Dave Marzolf’s farm look lush and even, bearing full kernels of the wheat used to make pasta.

On a closer look though, Marzolf’s durum kernels are infected with fusarium, a disease that produces a toxin known as vomitoxin and has forced him to sell the crop for animal feed. “It’s garbage,” Marzolf said by phone from Central Butte, Saskatchewan. “Big crop, poor quality—now what?”

Durum, which thrives in desert-like conditions of dry, hot days and cool nights, is processed into a coarse product called semolina that is used to make pasta. Canada, the world’s top durum exporter, ships much of it to Italy, Algeria and Morocco.

MSU Scientist and Team One Step Closer to Higher Quality Durum

Hikmet Budak, Montana State University’s first Montana Plant Sciences Endowed Chair, is among an international team of scientists that is now one step closer to producing durum wheat that boasts a higher protein content and grain quality.

The 14-member team announced in a July 6 press release that it has successfully sequenced and mapped the genome – or complete genetic code -- of durum wheat. Durum wheat is a close relative of the widely grown bread wheat and is the source of semolina, the key ingredient in pasta.

Using a sequencing technology developed by genetics company NRGene, the sequencing and mapping of the durum wheat genome took just a few months and has provided researchers with the complete list of genes and their locations for the cereal crop, Budak said.

Budak – who hailed the achievement as “exciting news for MSU and Montana” – said the data is the first step to understanding which genes are present in the durum wheat genome and harnessing this knowledge to produce higher quality Montana durum wheat lines and cultivated varieties known as cultivars that will also enjoy increased resistance to pests, environmental stress and disease.

Wheat Farmers Encouraged to Complete NAWG Farm Bill Survey

NAWG is seeking input from wheat farmers on the upcoming Farm Bill, please complete the survey!

Vilsack: Rural America is Back in Business

We know when rural communities do well, America does well. Rural America provides us with the food we eat, the water we drink and the energy we use, not to mention a disproportionate percentage of the Nation's military that keeps us safe from threat. That's why it's good news that in all corners of rural America, we're seeing real, positive change take hold for the first time in the years since the Great Recession.


Today, rural populations have stabilized, meaning more and more people—especially young families—are electing to stay in rural America rather than leave for the city. Better job prospects are helping that trend. Rural counties added over 125,000 jobs in both 2014 and 2015, after job losses averaging 200,000 per year during 2008-2013. As a result, the rural unemployment rate has dropped below 6 percent for the first time since 2007, which is impacting falling poverty rates. From 2012-2014, we saw rural child poverty fall by 3 percentage points. And new data indicates that 7.9 million fewer people are struggling to provide adequate food for themselves or household members than when President Obama took office. In fact, food insecurity for children is at the lowest level on record—meaning our children are able to access nutritious food in higher numbers than in the past.

2016 ND Wheat Variety Survey Released

The ND Wheat Commission (NDWC) released the 2016 Wheat Variety Survey. The survey details the popularity and distribution of wheat varieties across North Dakota. The data was gathered in a June survey of 2,363 producers conducted by the ND Field office of the National Ag Statistics Services (NASS). The survey was funded by NDWC, the ND Ag Experiment Station, and the ND State Seed Department. The survey found the top four varieties of durum are Divide, Carpio, Alkabo, and Joppa, which accounted for 60% of the 2016 acres. 

Production Costs Sharply Decline in 2015

Courtesy Morning Ag Clips


U.S. farmers spent $362.8 billion on agricultural production in 2015, down 8.8 percent from 2014, reversing a long-term trend of growing costs, according to the Farm Production Expenditures report, published today by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.

Feed and farm services, the two largest expenditure categories for U.S. farmers in 2014, both declined 8.2 percent last year. Producers spent $58.5 billion on animal feed, and $41.6 billion on farm services in 2015. One of only two expenditure categories that increased last year was livestock, poultry and related expenses, on which the producers spent $45.4 billion last year, an increase of 0.7 percent from 2014. The other was miscellaneous capital expenditure at 700 million, an increase of 16.7 percent.

Unlike the previous years, in 2015, the livestock sector accounted for the larger portion of the production expenditures. Livestock producers spent $182.6 billion, down 6.6 percent from 2014. Crop growers spent $180.3 billion, down 10.9 percent from 2014.

Obama Signs Bill Mandating GMO Labeling

Courtesy ABC News Go


A bill that creates a federal labeling standard for foods containing genetically modified ingredients (commonly called GMOs) was signed into law by President Barack Obama today.

“This measure will provide new opportunities for consumers to have access to information about their food,” Katie Hill, a White House spokeswoman, told ABC News.

Two weeks ago, Congress passed the legislation which would require food packages to display an electronic code, text label, or some sort of symbol signifying whether or not they contain GMOs, according to The Associated Press.

The exact details will need to be worked out by the Department of Agriculture, which will have up to two years to write the rules, The AP reports.

The news agency says that the law was largely supported by the food industry, which wished to see a national standard set for labeling products with GMOs, rather than separate and varying laws passed by states.

GMOs, often called "genetically engineered" crops, have their genetic information modified to give a plant a desirable trait.

According to the Food and Drug Administration, genetically engineered crops first entered the U.S. food supply in the 1990s, and account for 93 percent of planted soybeans and 88 percent of corn.

Exploring Ways to Manage FHB —

At the Northwest Research and Outreach Center Crops and Soils Day in Crookston, University of Minnesota Extension plant pathologist Madeleine Smith said fusarium head blight is evident this season. Smith is conducting trials on lengthening the window for a fungicide application. “Some of the work we’re doing right now is applying a little later, about five days after flowering," said Smith. "It looks like we can get some good control applying a little bit later after flowering is maybe finished. Flowering is really short sort of two to three days. We’re looking at that in conjunction with the varietal selection to give growers more opportunities to manage their operation at a time of year when they are also looking at spraying other crops." Smith said it is still important to pick the most scab resistant varieties.

New Japanese Wheat Variety Meant for Homegrown Pasta

Courtesy Japan News


The harvest of Setodure, a new variety of durum wheat, which is particularly suited to making pasta, went into full swing in mid-June. As domestic pasta consumption has risen, demand for durum wheat has increased accordingly. However, durum varieties are generally difficult to grow in Japan due to an unsuitable climate.

“If it becomes widely grown, we could make 100 percent domestic pasta, which would increase the food self-sufficiency rate,” a person involved in the project said. Recently, a tractor cut down light brown stalks of waist-high wheat on seven hectares in Kakogawa and Kasai, Hyogo Prefecture.

Enjoy that pasta salad: Noodles linked to lower BMI

Courtesy: CNN

A little bit of what's irresistible is good for you, Italian scientists have discovered. Their analysis of more than 23,000 people found that eating some pasta is associated with a lower body mass index. Those who enjoyed their noodles were less likely to be overweight and obese.

"Our results are in agreement with a relatively recent study examining food and nutrient intakes in association with BMI in 1,794 United States middle-aged adults, showing that pasta intake among other food groups is negatively associated with BMI," the researchers wrote.

Their new research appeared in Nutrition and Diabetes just in time for Independence Day, with its pasta salads at picnics and barbecues.

EPA visits North Dakota Farmers

Courtesy Williston Daily Herald 


There are mounting conversations regarding the use of pesticides and if it directly pairs with the rapid decline in bee populations. This has been of particular interest to the Environmental Protection Agency, which has made it the primary theme of its annual tour.
The EPA is often scrutinized by farmers that feel the agency impedes on their production potential and ability to farm. This is one reason the North Dakota Grain Growers Association has continued to sponsor the annual E-tour since its inception in 1993. They feel by highlighting the environmental stewardship of the state's agriculture, EPA officials will see firsthand how regulations affect local farmers.

"They determine when and where products can be used," said NDGGA President John Weinand. "We want to show them how it can be used. You can read it in a book or read it on the internet but until you see it in person, this makes it real."

"We're hoping to foster better understanding on farming and specifically, North Dakota farming," said NDGGA Executive Director Dan Wogsland. Six EPA officials of the Washington, D.C., office and another out Region 8 headquarters in Denver were selected to tour the state's farmland from June 20 to 24. The tour began in Minot, with visits slated for farms in Berthold, Stanley, Epping, Williston, Medora, Belfield, New Salem, Hazen, Linton and Bismarck.

Roberts, Stabenow Reach Deal on GMO Labeling

Courtesy Ag-Pulse Communicatiaons

A landmark Senate agreement on national disclosure standards for genetically engineered foods would allow companies to disclose GMO ingredients through digital codes rather than on-package language or symbols. The agreement, reached between Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts, R-KS, and ranking Democrat Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, also would use a narrow definition of genetic engineering that would exempt the newest biotech methods such as gene editing from the national disclosure standards.

Both the definition and the option for digital codes rather than on-package labeling represent major victories for farm interests, biotech developers, and food companies that have long resisted mandatory GMO labeling out of fear that it would stigmatize the technology.

What’s the best durum to plant? Joppa, Carpio, other

Courtesy Farm & Ranch Guide


Joppa durum, a new variety released from NDSU, could be the best way to go this year with predictions of a warm summer – but Carpio durum has its place, too. Both Joppa and Carpio would be good additions to a western producer’s rotation, as well as other newer varieties, according to Shana Forster, North Dakota State University Area Extension specialist in cropping systems at North Central Research Extension Center in Minot, N.D.


Carpio and Joppa, released by NDSU in 2012 and 2013, are among the newest durum wheat varieties available to North Dakota producers. Seed for both varieties is currently available. “Joppa may be better than Carpio when there is warmer weather. Carpio tends to thrive when weather conditions are cooler and during more frequent rain events,” Forster said during the Best of the Best in Wheat Research and Marketing held in Dickinson and Minot.


While Carpio may have higher quality, Joppa has come out ahead in research field trials in yield, she said. However, the difference in yield over four site years of data was only 2 bushels/acre.

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