The Roundup -

Grain Yields Up, Prices Low Says Nortana Grain Company


October 24, 2018 | View PDF

Nortana Grain Company, founded in 1939, buys and sells numerous agricultural commodities and has a long-established presence in Eastern Montana. As a premier marketer for agricultural commodities, Nortana has its thumb on the pulse of the ag industry. The Roundup recently spoke with Nortana General Manager, Shane Keller, about this year's crop yields and prices. Keller has been with Nortana for about twelve years.

Keller told the Roundup, "Yield-wise, the earlier crops that went in were really good. There was good yield and good protein. The yield was about 30 to 55 bushels per acre in our area. In terms of protein, the numbers were all over the place from 12 to 15 pro."

Numbers were up from last year.

Keller reported, "Compared to last year, the numbers were up. Last year was a drought. It's been up considerably. Last year we were lucky if we cut 20 bushels of wheat per acre or even 15 bushels of wheat."

Keller spoke of wheat, peas, canola, lentils, and Winter wheat, all of which are crops grown in the MonDak region. "All crops faired similarly to grain, and it's been a bumper harvest."

Keller continued, "Most people are growing spring wheat, durum and peas, and that's what we're seeing the most of."

There are some concerns, however, that the high crop yields are keeping prices relatively lower. This is a mixed bag for growers. Whereas there have been more crops harvested, the overall prices are lower.

Keller also explained that prices are being kept low not only by supply-and-demand economics, but also by international tariffs and the price of international competition.

"The price has dropped off quite a bit," Keller explained. "A lot of it has to do with the inventory out there in the world. And another thing is the tariffs with the foreign countries that aren't helping."

Keller was referring to other nations "dumping" their agricultural products into American markets, providing an excess of inventory that lowers prices. He was not optimistic there would be quick relief through governmental policy.

Speaking of possible governmental assistance, Keller added, "There's no program that I'm aware of. I know they're going to pay back seven to eight cents per bushel for spring wheat, but other than that we're hoping that these tariff trade wars are going to get hammered out and things will turn around."

There is some speculation that the Montana wheat industry may profit handily from a possible U.S., Canada, and Mexico trade agreement, which aims at restructuring the already-existing North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). President Trump announced that changes were agreed upon by the three partner nations in mid-October, but the changes have yet to be finalized. With more than 560 million dollars of wheat going from Montana to Canada, the Montana Farm Bureau president, Hans McPherson, has reportedly indicated that the prospect for Montana farmers is positive. Unfortunately, the process by which the new agreement would be reached will not help growers in the short term.


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