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North Dakota Agriculture by the Numbers


At this time of year, summer is winding down and the North Dakota harvest is in full swing. Wheat has been harvested. Soybeans, sunflowers, and corn wait their turn. When people from outside the state think of North Dakota, they generally think of vast, open prairie. Even some North Dakotans don’t realize the extent of the state’s agriculture, with 39.5 million acres that make it the largest industry in the state. 24% of North Dakotans are employed in agriculture or agriculture-related industries. There are 31,000 farms and ranches.

Wheat is a major North Dakota crop. The state produces over half the country’s production of durum wheat and 47% of the spring wheat. More acreage is devoted to wheat than any other crop. All but one of North Dakota’s 53 counties produce at least one million bushels of wheat annually. It’s the state’s top cash crop.

North Dakota also beats out all other states in the production of including sunflowers, flaxseed, barley, peas, and dry edible beans. North Dakota grows 95% of the country’s flaxseed. The state ranks third in the production of sugarbeets and seventh in soybeans. Other plentiful crops include potatoes, oats, and lentils.

The abundance of the North Dakota harvest is staggering. One bushel of spring wheat makes about 42 loaves of bread. A bushel of durum makes 210 servings of pasta.

Animals are also important in North Dakota’s agriculture, including the honeybee. The state ranks first in the production of honey – 34.2 million pounds per year. Cattle outnumber people in the state, almost three to one. Beef cattle account for more than $600 million in income annually. Not all cattle are for the beef industry. Dairy cattle produce about 340 million pounds of milk per year. There are about 135,000 hogs and 74,000 sheep. There are also ranches raising bison, elk, goats, and horses.

So, the next time you find yourself driving behind a slow-moving farm machine or a truck hauling the harvest, remember that it’s the heart of North Dakota’s economy at work.

Dakota Datebook written by Carole Butcher


The Ag Foundation. “North Dakota Agriculture Top Crops and Livestock.”

Netstate. "http://www.netstate.com/economy/nd_economy.htm" http://www.netstate.com/economy/nd_economy.htm Accessed 25 August, 2015

North Dakota Department of Agriculture. "http://www.nd.gov/ndda" www.nd.gov/ndda Accessed 25 August, 2015.

North Dakota State University Agriculture. "https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/ndsuag/" https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/ndsuag/ Accessed 25 August, 2015.