Red River Valley farmers harvest as drought hits region

The U. S. Drought Monitor now has the area in a moderate drought. It is even more critical in parts of central and western part of North Dakota.

While most farmers want dry weather while harvesting. The recent dry Fall has left the region in a drought condition.
Ryan Longnecker / WDAY News
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CASSELTON, N.D. — If you see farmers out in the field trying to wrap up harvest, there is likely a cloud of dust following the combine.

At Belter Farms south of Casselton, the corn on a 300-acre field is is coming off. And while the crop is looking pretty good, it is what's beneath the combine that is so concerning.

"It is rock hard to (...) to break up the hard pan, it's really hard, really chunky," said Mark Belter, Casselton farmer and board member with the North Dakota Corn Growers Association.

According to the U.S. Drought monitor, most of the region is in a moderate drought after a lack of rain late in the summer and this fall. For Fargo, the last 45 days were the fifth-driest stretch on record.

"We actually need some rain, and nobody wants it during harvest, and you always want to finish that first, but usually our harvest is always finishing up right at freeze-up. But, snow is great and it's great to have the snow ground cover, but you need the actual rain moisture to get into the soil before freeze-up," Belter said.


North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring said he has seen drought all across the state, and he hopes spring rains cooperate.

More from WDAY's Kevin Wallevand
At 111 years old, Helene Sandvig remembers her career as a country school teacher in the 1920s, picking up her students in a horse and buggy.

"I'm hopeful that we will (see spring rains). You kind of have to take it as it comes. After 30-plus years in the business, you never count your chickens before they hatch, and you never just play the doom and gloom card," Goehring said.

Farmers have to be optimistic in their line of work. As the harvest nears its end in the region, the hope is that weather swings from drought to fields healthy enough to kick off a good spring planting season.

Kevin Wallevand has been a Reporter at WDAY-TV since 1983. He is a native of Vining, Minnesota in Otter Tail County. His series and documentary work have brought him to Africa, Vietnam, Haiti, Kosovo, South America, Mongolia, Juarez,Mexico and the Middle East. He is an multiple Emmy and national Edward R. Murrow award recipient.

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