Glacier FarmMedia COVID-19 & the Farm

Cattle, crops at risk from N.D. floods, snow

Snowstorms on top of flooding in North Dakota have not yet resulted in many cattle deaths as feared, but lingering cold, wet weather threatens the state’s herd, a U.S. Department of Agriculture official said Tuesday.

Spring temperatures are well below normal in North Dakota, a key U.S. grower of spring wheat and sugarbeets and the No. 17 state for cattle production, after south central areas got a fresh dump of snow on Friday.

The U.S. National Weather Service is forecasting another winter storm bringing heavy snow to southwestern North Dakota on Tuesday.

“We have not heard of a big impact yet (but) I think livestock producers are continuing to fight one battle after another,” said Jay Hochhalter, a conservation specialist with USDA’s Farm Service Agency in the state. “We’re continuing to see rain and snow and flooding almost every day.”

Ranchers are in the midst of calving season, and the young animals are vulnerable to freezing in wet, cold conditions made worse by flooding across pastureland.

North Dakota has 1.7 million cattle, mostly beef cattle, down slightly from 1.72 million in 2010.

The Farm Service Agency administers government farm insurance programs such as one that compensates farmers for livestock deaths related to weather.

Seeding delayed

Flooding is widespread in North Dakota as snow slowly melts on ground saturated from last year’s rains. It is most severe in the Red River Valley, which extends into Minnesota.

The Red has now crested at most points in the U.S. and is slowly receding, but major flooding is expected to delay crop planting and keep many acres out of production.Record-high levels on North Dakota’s Devils Lake also threaten to leave farmland idle, said Dale Ihry, a program specialist with USDA.

The lake is rising from years of excessive rain and snow and is also expanding, Ihry said, taking potential acres for wheat, corn, barley, soybeans and canola out of production.

By later this year, the area around the northeastern North Dakota lake will have 163,450 fewer acres in production than it did in 1993, when the lake started to rise, according to a study by North Dakota State University.

Mines unaffected

Flooding is widespread in Western Canada outside the Red River Valley, with many smaller rivers also spilling their banks.

In Saskatchewan, which is home to a large portion of the world’s production of the crop nutrient potash, flooding is expected to delay crop planting up to three weeks.

Operations of potash mines owned by PotashCorp and Mosaic Co., however, are unaffected by the province’s flooding, spokesmen said.

Potash Corp diverted some floodwater earlier from its Patience Lake mine site as a precaution, said spokesman Bill Johnson.

Mosaic has been working with railways for a couple of months on contingency plans to move potash to customers, but none of its mines are in danger of flooding, said spokesman Brad Delorey.

In Manitoba, flooding has forced nearly 800 people from their homes, mostly as a precautionary measure as the Red and Assiniboine rivers rise toward their crests around the end of April.

— Additional reporting for Reuters by Bob Burgdorfer in Chicago.

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