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40 Years Ago - A Look Back

Tuesday, August 27, 2019
filed under: Historical

       Editor’s Note:  The Sunflower’s 1989 publishing schedule did not include an issue in August or September.  So our ‘30 Years Ago’ page takes a different chronology this month as we go back to the August/September 1979 issue — 40 years ago.
       Incidentally, 1979 was the peak year for U.S. sunflower acreage and production, following several years of significant expansion. For 1979, USDA reported harvested acreage of 5.4 million, with seed production totaling more than 3.4 million metric tons.  The 1980 levels were 3.7 million harvested acres and about 1.75 million metric tons. 
       Strike Compounds Fall Market SituationBy Mary Wallace Sandvik — “Many Upper Midwest growers thought they had problems marketing their sunflower crop last year.  This fall, though, all the usual factors of storage, sales and transportation have been compounded by a labor dispute at the ports of Duluth/Superior (through which the majority of the U.S. sunflower crop is exported) and a projected huge increase in the volume of this year’s crop over last year’s record sunflower production.
       “ ‘The entire transportation network with relation to agriculture is in a very serious situation, in my personal estimation,’ says Kenneth Tolonen, director of transportation for the Minneapolis Grain Exchange.  Tolonen states that the agricultural industry has been short 16,000 to 20,000 rail cares on a daily basis for the last two years, and there doesn’t appear to be much relief in sight.
       “The rail car shortage impacts the entire agricultural transportation network as it increases demand for barges and trucks, also in less-than-adequate supply.
       “According to Vince Erz of the South Dakota Wheat Growers Association, the truck situation looks favorable for small grains; but he foresees trouble for sunflower. ‘It’s going to be real tight for transportation for sunflower — very, very tight,’ he [says].”
       Transportation: The Vital LinkComments by Paul Haroldson, Chairman, North Dakota Sunflower Council, before the USDA Rural Transportation Advisory Task Force on July 24, 1979— “With the development of European markets for whole sunflower seed, the area including the two Dakotas and Minnesota began the production of sunflower seed for export to Western Europe.  Our method of transportation was to truck and rail sunflower to the port of Duluth for subsequent shipping to the European ports.  As the economics of sunflower production became more lucrative, more North Dakota crop; production went into sunflower.  Today, we have planted over three million acres of sunflower in North Dakota and well over five million acres in the United States.
       “Sunflower does not have the weight density of grains such as wheat and corn and thereby requires more transportation space.  The basic transportation pattern for sunflower has been to move the production, which is harvested in September and October, directly to Duluth/Superior, with export loading prior to freeze-up.  Only in the last two years have we been moving quantities of sunflower during the winter and spring seasons.
       “In October/November of 1978, 853,000 metric tons of seed were shipped out of the twin ports.  In the spring of 1979, another 400,000 metric tons were shipped.  Obviously, with an 80 percent increase in production in 1979, we are going to have to extend our marketing pattern into the summer season as well because the transportation system and the port facilities will not be able to handle this huge quantity of production.”   
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