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Corn talk

Land prices, corn yields and "why we're doing this" were some of the interesting things talked about at the South Dakota Corn Growers convention.

I ran down to Sioux Falls from Fargo Saturday for the South Dakota Corn Growers Association convention.

Some of interesting things I heard at the conference:

Land values boom. I heard about land selling for nearly $4,000 per acre in central South Dakota and $5,000 per acre near northwest Iowa. The land price-to-yield ratio is apparently higher in South Dakota that many other places in the Cornbelt.

Cutting back. But not everybody is hungry for more land. One farmer told me confidentially that he had cut back from 6,000 to 3,000 acres a year ago. He let most of his low, wet land go. At the same time, he built more contract wean-to-finish hog barns. The contract gives him a margin of profit and the hog manure dramatically cuts his corn input costs. The banker likes it if you can generate the same profit on fewer assets, he said.

Soil health bump. Bryan Jorgenson, Ideal, S.D., said he’s amazed at the progress he’s made since incorporating cover crops in his in his diversified no-till system. He says they’re raising 200+ bushels per acre corn on 60 pounds of nitrogen. Many other farmers who are involved in the “beyond no-till movement” report similar gains. SDCGA is funding research related to cover crops and soil health.

Why were doing this. Barry Dunn, the new dean of the SDSU Department of Agriculture and Biological Sciences, offered some talking points for farmers who want to be better advocates for agriculture. Lot’s of non-farmers remember the “good old days of farming” fondly, he said. But it wasn’t a great time for everybody in the world, he said. As late as 1965, 1/3 people in the world were starving or near starvation. Today, the figure is about 1/7th.

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