North Dakota is an agricultural state. Farming is, directly or indirectly, the major source of income. However, mining, manufacturing, and tourism are also important. The extraction of mineral fuels—petroleum, coal, and natural gas—is the principal mining activity. Food processing is the chief type of manufacturing.
North Dakota had a work force of 358,000 in 2008. Of those the largest share, 40 percent, worked in the diverse service sector, doing such jobs as working in tourist establishments or data processing. Another 21 percent worked in wholesale or retail trade; 21 percent in federal, state, or local government, including those in the military; 9 percent in farming (including agricultural services), forestry, or fishing; 7 percent in manufacturing; 14 percent in finance, insurance, or real estate; 21 percent in transportation or public utilities; 5 percent in construction; and 1 percent in mining. In 2007, 6 percent of North Dakota’s workers belonged to labor unions. The state has a right-to-work law, which prohibits union membership as a condition of employment.
In 2008 there were 32,000 farms in North Dakota. Of those 67 percent produced annual income of more than $10,000, a high rate by national standards. Many of the remaining farms were sidelines for operators who held other jobs. Farmland occupied 16 million hectares (39.6 million acres), of which 69 percent was cropland.
Most of the rest was used as range for livestock grazing. In the early 1990s about 41,000 people worked on farms in North Dakota. That represented a decrease of nearly one-fifth from the early 1980s. However, projections are that employment in farming will remain steady into the early 2000s. North Dakota lies in the heart of the spring wheat belt, where wheat is planted in spring and harvested in late summer.
The state is surpassed only by Kansas in total wheat production. It harvests more durum wheat, which is used in making pasta, and other varieties of spring wheat than any other state. In barley, sunflower seed, and flaxseed the state also ranks first in the nation. Furthermore, it is a leading producer of dry beans, potatoes, honey, oats, and sugar beets. After wheat, cattle provide the second most important source of income for North Dakota’s farmers. The state also produces such crops as hay, soybeans, and corn, as well as dairy products and hogs.
The land bordering the Red River in eastern North Dakota is the richest agricultural land in the state. In addition to wheat growing, a variety of specialty crops are raised, including sugar beets, soybeans, and sunflowers, as well as most of the potatoes grown in the state. In the southeast, corn and oats are important and hogs, as well as cattle, are raised. Corn and hogs, traditionally raised together, are the important products of the Corn Belt, which borders this part of the state. Throughout much of the rest of North Dakota, cash grains, largely wheat but also barley and oats, are usually grown. Flax is grown in many areas. In the Missouri Coteau and in the southwestern part of the state many farmers combine cattle ranching with wheat growing. In south central North Dakota, dairy cattle are numerous. "North Dakota" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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