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Published July 13, 2015, 09:42 AM

Young North Dakota farmer having good summer so far

The weather and markets have been cooperating — and Dustin McGregor continues to hope for the best.

By: Jonathan Knutson, Agweek

The weather and markets have been cooperating — and Dustin McGregor continues to hope for the best.

“It’s still a ways to go (until harvest),” he says. But it’s looking pretty good.”

McGregor, a Fairdale, N.D., farmer, and his family were profiled in the May 18 cover article of Agweek. The story looked at the satisfactions and challenges, both financial and personal, of the 30-year-old, fourth-generation producer, his wife, Sara and their baby son, Ben. The magazine will check back with the McGregors several times during the coming year.

McGregor’s 2015 crop, only part of which was in the ground when he first visited with Agweek, is coming along nicely, although a late spring freeze forced him to replant some of his canola.

“Overall, the wheat and barley looks really nice,” he says. “The canola that froze out and had to be replanted — some looks pretty good, some looks a little ratty.”

Wheat and barley are cool-season grasses, which have fared well in the relatively cool conditions so far this growing season.

“The concern with the wheat is that if it yields well, the protein discounts will be affected,” McGregor says. “I know a lot of people are concerned about it.”

Wheat buyers typically want a protein level of at least 14 percent. High-yielding wheat often has a lower protein content, which can result in substantial discounts, or price reduction.

McGregor doesn’t plan to apply nitrogen to his wheat, which could boost its protein content.

“I just don’t have time to do that,” he says of nitrogen application.

McGregor receives some help from his wife and his parents, a semi-retired farm couple. But he handles most of the work himself and already puts in long hours.

Canola prices improve

Wheat prices remain poor and, even with good yields, making money on the crop will be difficult this year, especially with discounts. McGregor has sold about 10 percent of his anticipated wheat crop; farmers often sell part of their crop in advance of harvest as a precaution that prices will drop later.

Canola prices have rallied this summer, in part because of poor growing conditions in Canada, the world’s leading producer and exporter of the crop.

“We’re close to breakeven on canola (the price at which he’ll cover his expenses.),” McGregor says. “So maybe we’ll be able to make some money.”

He’s applied fungicide to his crops as a precaution. He’s noticed a little striped rust, which can cut sharply into yields, in some of his wheat.

The immediate moisture outlook for his crops is good. His area received 1½ inches of rain in early July.

“We had been getting a little dry, so that rain really helped,” he says.

On the homefront

Things are going well with the McGregor family, too.

Sara, who had been on maternity leave, has returned full time to her job as an administrative assistant at the North Dakota State University Extension Research Center in Langdon.

Ben, who was born prematurely in January, is doing well, “though we had to get a helmet on him,” Dustin says. “His head was a little bit misshapen.”

Earl and Sharlene, Dustin’s parents who live nearby, are available for occasional babysitting.

Dustin expects to begin combining barley in early August, with the wheat harvest starting later that month. It’s too soon to predict when canola harvest will begin.

Agweek will revisit the McGregor farm during wheat harvest — one of the busiest and most important times in Upper Midwest agriculture.