North Dakota’s wheat industry continues to flourish, though the drought of 2017 has affected production for the year. Still, wheat farmers have more diverse crop choices and opportunities than just a few years ago.
“Wheat is still king for many North Dakota producers, but crop choices continue to expand,” says David Clough, chair of the North Dakota Wheat Commission (NDWC).
The state ranks No. 1 in the United States in the production of both hard red spring (HRS) wheat and durum, with an annual output of approximately 250 million bushels of HRS and 50 million bushels of durum, which is nearly half of the nation’s HRS and two-thirds of U.S. durum production.
“U.S. millers, bakers and pasta processors, and quality-conscious markets worldwide pay premiums for these two unique wheats,” Clough says. They are highly sought after to augment the quality of less- robust wheat crops.
The Wheat Commission reports nearly 70 nations import HRS and durum wheat from North Dakota on a regular basis, at prices often exceeding other classes and origins by $1 to $2 per bushel.
North Dakota’s prized durum wheat is a key ingredient in your favorite authentic Italian pasta dish.
“Hard red spring wheat is the largest wheat class produced in North Dakota, but durum is the world’s premier pasta ingredient,” says Neal Fisher, North Dakota Wheat Commission administrator. “You might be able to make pasta from other wheats or perhaps a blend, but in Italy, if it’s not 100 percent durum, it’s not pasta – that’s actually a law in Italy. U.S. durum, mostly grown in North Dakota, has a distinct advantage in Italy because of its very high-quality processing traits and great color scores.”
In addition, HRS is recognized worldwide for its high protein content and high-performance milling and processing traits.
“Quality reputations do not happen by accident,” Clough says. “Our varieties are developed with time- tested agronomic and end-use characteristics sought as dual priorities.”
Clough and Fisher note that both yield and quality must be addressed, or producers will not grow the variety. Most are developed at North Dakota State University (NDSU) through leveraged arrangements of producer dollars via their wheat commission checkoff, supplementing important state and federal general fund appropriations and grants.
Private sector companies have also ramped up variety development efforts, further broadening overall choices, genetics and much-needed wheat industry investment.
North Dakota wheat farmers have a strong support system, thanks to organizations such as the NDWC, North Dakota Grain Growers Association (NDGGA) and North Dakota-based U.S. Durum Growers Association (USDGA). All three grassroots organizations have specific missions and programs, but regularly work together, drawing on industry partners and bolstering North Dakota’s wheat industry through research, promotion, education and advocacy.
Dan Wogsland, executive director of the NDGGA, says the state’s wheat commission contracts with NDGGA and USDGA for the development of domestic policy positions benefit wheat and durum farmers on the local, state and federal levels, such as crop insurance, water management, disaster programs and other critical Farm Bill issues.
The groups also work together on producer education endeavors with the NDSU Extension Service.
“We have a wonderful working relationship with the North Dakota Wheat Commission and the North Dakota Grain Growers Association,” Wogsland says. “The Wheat Commission does an excellent job in researching and promoting North Dakota wheat, while the U.S. Durum Growers Association does a wonderful job promoting durum and durum production in the state. We continue to focus on doing the best job possible for our farmers.”
As a result, it’s no surprise Clough predicts continued success for North Dakota’s wheat growers and the industry as a whole.
“The state’s signature wheat classes have been produced in North Dakota for more than 150 years,” Clough says. “We have a bright future as the world’s premier wheat source, as long as we continue to work with all of our partners to deliver on our high-quality, high-performance reputation.”