Written by Aaron Vipond
As many of you know, over the past 15 years corn acres have been rapidly expanding, especially in the northern crop regions of the United States and Canada. This expansion is helping to keep Minnesota the fourth largest corn producing state after Iowa, Illinois and Nebraska.
Today, in my home county of Mahnomen, Minn., located in the northwestern portion of the state, the USDA estimates that corn production has moved close to 5 million bushels. Mahnomen County had previously been known for its wheat and barley production in the 1990s and had little to no corn grown other than for cattle feed.
In the past decade, corn has become more attractive for northern producers. With new technological advances in farming and the breeding of early seed varieties, it’s created 70- and 80-day varieties that are agronomically sound and can produce high yields. Producers have achieved yields of up to 160 bushels per acre as far north as the Canadian border.
Seed companies are working to develop 60-day hybrids for the short growing season of the Canadian prairies within the next 10 years. These developments, as well as the higher profit potential have led many farms in the northern region to invest in the necessary equipment required to produce corn. On my family’s 800 acre farm, we have switched entirely away from small grains in our rotation. The current rotation is 50/50, corn and soybeans, much like that of farms in southern Minnesota and Iowa.
Unlike southern Minnesota and Iowa, corn does have more risk with our cooler northern summers and shorter growing season, but the reward has out-weighed the risk with high yields and stable prices. As northern Minnesota growers continue to produce corn and build their crop insurance APH (Actual Production History) they will be able better manage their risk with crop insurance and corn will be here to stay.
And as corn has moved into my part of the state, membership in the Minnesota Corn Growers Association (MCGA) has increased. Becker, Norman, Mahnomen, Polk, Red Lake and Pennington counties all became part of MCGA and have helped build MCGA’s membership to a record 6,868. MCGA membership gives northern growers a united voice on important issues and helps strengthen corn farming throughout Minnesota.
Corn has come a long ways in my home county of Mahnomen and the surrounding region. I look forward to seeing what the future holds.
Aaron Vipond attends North Dakota State University and is an MCGA Agvocate.