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Soybean pile

Soybeans were piling up in Napoleon thanks to dry weather triggering an early harvest, said Josh Mardikian, CHS South Central grain division manager, in 2015. "We're getting close to 200,000 bushels, but trains are coming and I bet we have it off the ground in less than a month," he said. This photograph was taken from the north side of Napoleon along Highway 34 and shows the elevator in the background.

Excluding oil, North Dakota exported $2.24 billion worth of products in 2017, a 5.63 percent increase over the previous year.

The increase in exports paralleled the 6.59 percent increase in national exports.

North Dakota’s export growth was led by machinery and soybeans, according to the U.S. Commercial Service.

Some of the machinery exported from the state includes bulldozers, tractors, combines and farm implements. The value of those exports went from $686.5 million to $756.9 million. Values of machinery exports in 2015 was more than $785 million. Canada, Australia and Ukraine were among the countries who upped their imports of machinery from North Dakota in 2017.

Soybean exports were up 120 percent from 2016 to 2017.

According to U.S. Census Bureau data, North Dakota exported $24 million worth of soybeans in 2016, which puts 2017 exports at $52.8 million. In 2015, North Dakota soybean exports were worth $45 million.

More than $28 million in North Dakota soybeans were exported to China in 2017, up from less than $100,000 in 2016, according to the U.S. Commercial Service.

Exports of a number of other crops from North Dakota saw a decrease. Along with a decline in wheat prices, the state’s wheat exports were down 1.2 percent in 2017, compared to 2016. Corn, which was also down in price, saw a 22 percent decrease in export value. Lentils were down 4 percent and dry beans were down 1 percent, but malting barley was up 6 percent.

North Dakota’s largest “export” is crude oil, making up 58 percent of the state’s $5.32 billion in total exports.

“But most of this oil is simply going through a pipeline that crosses briefly into Canada and isn’t actually sold into Canada,” said Heather Ranck of the U.S. Commercial Service.

Natural gas was up in 2017, totaling $93.6 million. This was a large jump over 2015 and 2016 exports of $30.7 million and $12.6 million respectively. The last time the state had large natural gas exports was 2014, when they totaled $108.6 million, according to the U.S. Commercial Service.

All natural gas exports reportedly went to Canada, Ranck said.

Ethanol was another leading fuel-based export, with more than $115 million exported from North Dakota to Canada in 2017, a 6 percent increase over 2016. Ranck said North Dakota has been going to Canada since 2012.

Canada continues to be North Dakota’s No. 1 export destination, taking in $4.4 billion worth including oil.

Mexico is the second largest market for North Dakota products, importing $244 million or 4.58 percent of North Dakota’s total exports. With the increase in soybean exports, China became North Dakota’s fourth largest trading partner behind Australia.

Growing markets for North Dakota include Japan, Ukraine and Nigeria.

Reach Jessica Holdman at 701-250-8261 or


Business Reporter