OPINION

Farm tractors in North Dakota

Marvin Baker
Local Columnist

We all know North Dakota is an agricultural state and it takes an awful lot of farm machinery to take this state from seeding through harvest every year.

And when we get out in the country, we’ll see all kinds of machines and colors moving slowly but methodically through fields.

We like to think that farm machinery for the most part is American made, but after a check of some brand names, it turns out American made tractors are and have been the exception, not the rule.

Perhaps most familiar to all of us is John Deere. These tractors and combines are expensive, but they are arguably the most durable tractor on the market and they hold their value better than any other.

For any of us who purchase John Deere products in this part of the nation, we find they are built in Moline, Ill., and Waterloo, Iowa, with some other plants in Georgia and Tennessee.

Case IH tractors are built right here in North Dakota at a Fargo plant. They are also produced in a plant in Racine, Wis.

Once in a while, we’ll see a Steiger. They too, were made in Fargo, but have since merged with Versatile, a Canadian company that builds its tractors in Winnipeg and has them shipped to Fargo where the transmissions are put in them.

Anything beyond those brands and you are reaching if you think they are American made.

Kubota is a popular tractor and you see them all over, especially in landscaping and in ranching. Kubota is a Japanese company, but some of its tractors are made in the United States in Georgia.

Just like the Steiger, there might be some Belarus tractors still around. This was probably the cheapest tractor on the market, but it was bare bones. It had just the minimum just to make it operational.

Those tractors were made in Minsk, Belarus and shipped to the United States. You could buy a Belarus for about a third of what you would pay for a John Deere. But, like the old saying goes, you get what you pay for.

Rhino International is a Chinese company that makes a tractor that looks like it’s made in China.

And speaking of Chinese, New Holland tractors have kind of a sketchy route to the farm in North Dakota.

Some of their tractors are made in Pennsylvania, while others are made in China and Cambodia. The company that owns New Holland is a partnership with two Chinese companies and one in Italy called Fiat.

Once in a while we’ll see a TV commercial or magazine ad for Mahindra. “I love my Mahindra,” is part of the commercial.

This is a fairly reasonable tractor for what you are getting, but it stands to reason. Mahindras are built by cheap labor in India

Next on the list is the Branson tractor. This has an American name, but you guessed it, it’s made overseas, this time in Korea.

There’s one more tractor to highlight here and that’s Fordson. There are still a few of these in North Dakota.

Originally made by Ford, the ownership of this tractor was changed 300 times until finally, it stopped production  So now, if you want parts, you’ll have to cannibalize another Fordson.

Anyway, in the beginning, they were made by Ford. Actually they were always made by Ford, but ownership changed hands frequently.

In the 1920s and 1930s, hundreds of thousands of Fordsons went to China to compete with inferior machinery there.

Finally, in the past approximately 15 years of its existence, Fordson was a British tractor.

All of these tractors were or are operating in North Dakota. It’s just that so many we’re familiar with, are either made overseas in their entirety or partially.

When you look at these machines, you have to choose which one you want based on your own personal situation.

It’s obvious that John Deere sells more than any other, but it would be interesting to see what percentage of tractor and combine sales do go to John Deere.

Case-IH and Versatile are other good choices, especially having a Fargo connection and not some crazy place like Cochabamba, Bolivia or Sarajevo or something.

Caterpillar should also be listed here because Cat is an American company, but manufacturers its products all over the world.

There are plenty of those in North Dakota also, but they are mostly made for the industrial segment.

Bobcat skid-steer loaders are similar. Made here in North Dakota with a Korean ownership.