Agriculture is the leading revenue-producing industry in North Dakota, accounting for about one-fourth of the state's economic base. Other major industries include manufacturing, coal mining and oil and gas exploration, extracting and refining.
Wheat is North Dakota's chief agricultural commodity. Other chief contributors to North Dakota farm revenue are cattle, 16 percent; feed crops, 12 percent; soybeans, 13 percent; sugar beets, 4 percent; and sunflower, 4 percent.
A strong wheat industry is very important to the viability of North Dakota. For example, the average farm level wheat price in 2010 was $6.50 per bushel ($239 per ton), and the size of the crop was 362 million bushels (9.9 million metric tons) making the direct cash value $2.2 billion, which generates an additional $4.5 billion in indirect commercial activity.
Nationally, North Dakota typically ranks second to Kansas in total wheat production, though there are years when the state has come out on top, depending on growing conditions. North Dakota was the top wheat producing state in 2009 and 2010.
North Dakota is number one in the production of two wheat classes: hard red spring and durum. On average, the state's farmers grow nearly half of the nation's hard red spring wheat (250 million bushels) and two-thirds of the durum (50 million bushels).
North Dakota also is the leading U.S. producer of sunflower, barley, dry edible beans, navy and pinto beans, canola, flax, oats, honey, lentils and dry peas. The state also is a major producer of sugarbeets, potatoes, hay and specialty crops such as mustard seed, buckwheat and crambe.
North Dakota has about 30,300 farms, averaging 1,300 acres (526 hectares) each. The national average is 436 acres (177 hectares).
Approximately 19,200 North Dakota farms grow wheat. By class, 74 percent grow spring, 25 percent raise durum, and 1 percent produce winter wheat.
Wheat is produced in all 53 counties in North Dakota.
Wheat is planted on an average 9 million acres (3.7 million hectares), covering a quarter of North Dakota. The state's average yield is 38 bushels per acre (2.55 tons per hectare).
The state's farmers have 760 million bushels (21 million tons) of on-farm storage capacity, enough to hold more than two North Dakota wheat crops.
Over 300 country and subterminal elevators are scattered across the state. They have a combined licensed warehouse capacity of 322 million bushels (8.8 million tons).
North Dakota is served by two major railroads: the Canadian Pacific and the Burlington Northern Santa Fe; and three short-line or regional railroads: the Red River Valley and Western, the Dakota Missouri Valley and Western, and the Northern Plains Railroad. Approximately 75 percent of N.D. grain leaves the state by rail and 25 percent by truck.
Americans spend a small share of their disposable income on food, just 10.4 percent in 2005 (the most recent year for which statistics are available).
The farm value, or gross return paid to farmers is just 16 percent of the bill Americans paid for food in 2008. Labor is the biggest cost in the total food marketing bill. Other costs include processing, packaging, transportation, energy and advertising.
The farm value of cereal and bakery goods, or raw product cost, accounts for only $.12 of each dollar spent in 2008 for these products in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service.
Over the last five years, nearly 100 nations around the world have imported hard red spring and durum wheats from North Dakota.