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Rugby producers featured in Wall Street Journal

By Staff | Jun 21, 2013

Rugby found its way on to the national news scene last week, when a story about corn growing generated out of the Geographical Center appeared in the Wall Street Journal.

The story focused on the factors that have led to increased corn growth in the northern plains and was based out of Rugby with a number of locals interviewed for the story.

Local farmers Jim Teigen and Steve Fritel were quoted in the piece, along with Steve Dockter, the general manager at Farmers Union Oil.

The story focused on how climate change, genetic seed engineering and higher corn prices have made a corn a more popular crop.

Dockter was surprised when he was asked to be interviewed for the story.

“To be honest with you, when the secretary said that somebody from the Wall Street Journal is here to visit with you, I thought somebody is here to sell me something,” Dockter said. “But it was legit, he gave me his card and told me what he was doing.”

Dockter and local farmer Kipp Johnson, who was also interviewed for the story but not quoted, both got the impression the story was going to focus more on climate change, but Dockter said it’s biotechnology producing higher yields that has made the biggest difference.

“I could tell just by how he prefaced everything, he came with a headline and was going build a story around it focusing on global warming and how it’s impacted corn acreage up here,” Dockter said. “The real impact of global warming has added less than two days to our growing season in the last 50 years, the last I read. It’s genetic engineering that’s made the difference.”

The story said over the past 100 years, the state’s average temperature has risen 2.7 degrees, lengthening the growing season by an average 1.2 days per decade, citing state climatologist Adnan Akyuz who provided the figures.

But Dockter said the increase in corn grown in the area boils down to simple economics and the ability of farmers to produce greater yields due to genetic engineering of seeds.

“When you’ve got 75-day corn that has the potential, in the right growing season, there’s guys that hit, not farm averages, but field averages nearing 150 bushels,” Dockter said. “You get anywhere from $6 to $7, which they have, not every year, but they have, and compare that to a 50-60 bushel wheat crop at $6 to $7. Our farmers are businessmen. They sit down and do the numbers. Cashflow-wise, corn has been king the last few years. It’s genetic engineering that’s driven that shorter season corn.”

Teigen and Fritel both pointed to greater profitability as the reason for increasing their corn crops.

Dockter said the market could change if corn prices dip.

“You get down to $1.90 corn like we seemed to have for 20 years, it’s a whole different ballgame,” he said.

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