As some in the industry expected, South Dakota led the nation in sunflower production in 2013, shouldering its sister state out of the top place as the nation as a whole produced just over 2 billion pounds of sunflowers, down from more than 2.78 billion pounds in 2012.

New data released on Friday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture showed South Dakota set the pace for the country by producing 820.8 million pounds of oilseed sunflowers for the year, up from 789.6 million pounds in 2012. South Dakota produced 176 million pounds of confection sunflowers, far ahead of the state’s 2012 production of 102 million pounds.

South Dakota’s total production of all sunflowers tipped the scales at 996.8 million pounds, or just under half the sunflowers produced in the country.

North Dakota, the perennial leader in sunflower production, had bad weather to deal with in spring 2013 and produced only 510.3 million pounds of oilseed sunflowers for the year – far less than the state’s 2012 production of 1.3 billion pounds – and 97.9 million pounds of confection sunflowers, down from 139 million pounds in 2012.

Nationwide, the U.S. produced a total of 1.64 billion pounds of oilseeds and 385 million pounds of confection sunflowers.

“South Dakota out-produced North Dakota to be the leading sunflower-producing State during 2013. The USDA numbers were not a surprise given the cool temperatures and wet conditions this spring that were faced in North Dakota,” Executive Director John Sandbakken of the Mandan, N.D.-based National Sunflower Association said.

The nine major sunflower-producing states are California, Colorado, Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Texas.

Sandbakken said South Dakota had nice state average yields with 1,520 pounds per acre for oil types and 1,600 pounds per acre for confection sunflowers.

“This should bode well for acres this year,” Sandbakken added. “Sunflower prices are competitive with other crops and pencil out pretty well for 2014.”

South Dakota also led the nation in sunflower production in 2011.

Ag watchers say snow and rain in North Dakota prevented farmers from planting as many acres of sunflower as they had planned in 2013, while central South Dakota farmers were shifting acres out of winter wheat into crops such as sunflower – a response to the drought of 2012 that left them with poor stands of winter wheat.

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