A Look Back - 30 Years
Forward Contracting: Worth a Hard Look — “A lot of 1982 sunflower production could have been forward contracted at $11 a hundredweight or more at the farm level this past spring. Were you one of the (now) smart ones who took advantage of that price level; or did you wait for it to go higher and then end up catching it on the down side instead?
“As an agricultural economist at South Dakota State University, Art Sogn advised growers early this year to lock in a majority of their anticipated production at that $11 figure. If they didn’t, however, he can certainly empathize. ‘I grow sunflower, and I didn’t sell mine for $11 either,’ he admits. ‘I got a stubborn streak, missed out on $11 and didn’t even sell at $10.80.’
“Sogn has traditionally encouraged South Dakota sunflower growers to strongly consider forward contracting part of their expected production — perhaps one-half to two-thirds. And although he doesn’t believe a majority of producers are doing so yet, he does see ‘more and more people paying a lot of attention to it.’ ”
They’re Burning Veg Oil Now — “Economists tell them it won’t pay off — yet. Agricultural engineers warn that they could eventually damage their engines. And engine manufacturers caution that if they do, warranties would be jeopardized.
“But there are farmers who are not content to wait until others give them a green light in order to independently experiment with burning vegetable oils in their diesel-powered tractors. Norm Brittingham and Eugene Swoboda are two cases in point.
“Brittingham, who farms near the community of Pittsville on Maryland’s Delmarva Peninsula, has put about 100 hours on his John Deere 4230 with a 50/50 sunflower oil/diesel fuel blend. While that’s not a lot of hours, he hasn’t experienced any problems thus far. He has noticed a minimal difference in horsepower under certain loads, and while experimenting a bit with 100 percent sun oil, he did observe a four to five percent loss in fuel consumption.
“Swoboda, a Redwood Falls, Minn., farmer, uses varying blends of sunflower oil and diesel fuel in his IH 806 and IH 1206 tractors. ‘If it’s 80 degrees out and we’re working the tractors hard, we run 90/10 (sun oil to diesel),’ he says. ‘If it’s cool and we’re running a light load, we cut the sun oil percentage down.’
“Swoboda estimates he’s put on about 500 hours on each of his tractors during the past two years while running on the sun oil/diesel blends. ‘We haven’t had any problems at all,’ he states, citing horsepower and fuel consumption ratios as being very similar to straight diesel. . . .
“Brittingham and Swoboda produce their own sunflower oil, each having purchased a small English expeller unit. They filter the oil after pressing, but that’s the only conditioning it receives prior to going into the tractor.”
The Duluth/Superior Highway / By Davis Helberg, Executive Director, Seaway Port Authority of Duluth — “In 1971 a rather tentative movement of 17,354 metric tons of sunflower seed was exported via the Port of Duluth/Superior. The numbers crept up gradually, to 287,598 metric tons by 1976. From that point on, the scorecard (in metric tons) reads like this:
1977 – 533,717
1978 – 1,132,058
1979 – 1,246,454
1980 – 1,249,018
1981 – 1,327,300
Based on a generally accepted formula for measuring this type of thing, the economic impact generated by shipments of sun seeds through the Twin Ports in 1981 was $33,195,773. (That works out to more than 14 percent of the impact of all waterborne commerce in Duluth/Superior last year, some $225.4 million.) . . . .
“We will not hit one million tons of sun seed exports this year. As of mid-October, the port had handled slightly more than 500,000 metric tons. With no carryover from the 1981 crop and harvesting said to be extremely difficult because of soggy fields, it appears that we’ll be hard-pressed to hit the 800,000-ton mark in 1982. . . . Further, it’s our understanding that the Northern Europeans have done well this year with their own varieties of oilseeds as well as importing various other seeds from other origins.
“But pendulums have a tendency to swing both ways. We view this season as an anomaly and expect to be back in full swing (with a good crop this year and a little luck) in 1983.”
Survey: Midge Range Hasn’t Grown — “John Busacca and Dennis Kopp report both good news and bad news concerning the sunflower midge. The good news is that the pest’s outer boundaries of infestation do not appear to be increasing. The bad news is that we’re still groping for ways to control the midge, and solid solutions do not appear imminent.
“Busacca and Kopp are entomologists at North Dakota State University, and together with other entomologists from the University of Minnesota, South Dakota State University and Manitoba Agriculture, they surveyed sunflower fields in the Red River Valley region this summer for evidence of midge infestation. This is the second year such a survey has been conducted. . . .
“Region-wide, Busacca and Kopp estimate that no more than one or two percent of yield potential was lost due to midge damage. However, this percentage was substantially higher in certain locales . . . And there were a few instances where fields were essentially wiped out.”
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