The value of Montana’s agricultural products surpassed $4 billion in 2012, a 50 percent increase over five years, capping the longest modern period of historic price increases, according to federal census data released Thursday.
Net farm incomes are in for a 27 percent drop this year, according to federal economists, though Montana agriculture groups say they may miss the worst of it.
Last year Montana farmers exported a record $915 million worth of wheat, most of it destined to Asia. That’s a tidy sum any way you count it.
The wheat fields on either side of the Montana-Canadian border don’t look any different, but buyers north of the line say U.S. grain is worth less, which bothers Outlook farmer Gordon Stoner.
For the fifth time in six years, Montana’s wheat crop is valued at more than $1 billion, a rarely reached benchmark that has some farmers anxious about what could be next.
If ranchers keep cutting back the size of their herds, pretty soon cowboys will be all hat and very few cattle.
With drought driving up demand, hay prices in Montana hit $200 a ton for most varieties, according to federal market reports.
A rancher with cattle to feed and no hay must travel until he finds some. A 200- or 300-mile trip isn’t unusual, but trips to Canada are, which is exactly where the drought drove Joe Goggins this summer.
Drought across the nation is stirring worries about crop shortages and driving up prices, but much of Montana should benefit from those concerns.
POMPEYS PILLAR — A sandstone butte bearing rare evidence of Lewis and Clark's quest to discover ways for profiting from the American West gets the most of the attention in these parts, but a bigger, more modern mast of capitalism towers in the distance.
KINTYRE FLATS -- One town or another on this northeastern Montana plain seemingly turns 100 about every other month, and for some the date seems more like a finish line than a milepost.
For years, Gordon Stoner’s rule for keeping the rain-soaked Northeast Montana soil from swallowing his tractor was to “turn when the ducks fly,” meaning nothing short of a pond would cause him to turn the wheel.
So many seeds, so little ground.
Every time the cattle line up to eat at Scott James' Custer feedlot, the dinner bill gets out of hand.
With a record-breaking wheat harvest and strong prices, Montana may have its third $1 billion wheat harvest in four years.