Archive for Thursday, June 28, 2007

As expected, harvest isn’t bountiful

June 28, 2007

With wheat bringing around $6 a bushel, the highest price in decades, farmers should be rejoicing. Problem is, the wheat crop stinks. That's farmin'.

"Well, that's what happens," said Bill Wood, Douglas County extension agent. "Lower yields means higher prices. It's Economics 101 -- supply and demand. When supply is low, prices go up."

A late spring freeze devastated most of the county's wheat crop. The freeze caught the wheat in a critical stage and basically killed or stunted it. It's the same across most of the state.

Steve Wilson, Baldwin Feed Co. owner, said wheat harvest was at full swing Tuesday -- ahead of the predicted rain, which is expected to stop it -- but that it wasn't looking good.

"About everybody is in the field. Everybody's in the middle of it," Wilson said Tuesday afternoon. "We're probably averaging 55 test weight. Everything's pretty dry. It's averaging 25 bushel to the acre is what it's doing."

That's low -- it usually averages 42.5 bushels to the acre -- and that's not the whole story this year.

"To average it is tough to do," said Wilson. "There's some poor stuff and some good stuff. This year there's a lot of variation."

It's all about what stage the crop was in when the freeze hit in April.

"Yep, that's it," he said. "Some of the county had snow pack, too."

Wood, the county agent, is seeing the same across the entire county.

"I've not heard too much, but what I am hearing is 10 and up to 35 (bushels to the acre)," said Wood. "I think 20s will catch most of it. That's not going to help us. Test weights are down, too."

Wood agreed with Wilson's assessment that the harvest is about half complete.

"It looks like close to half," said Wood. "I thought it would have been faster. Maybe there's no hurry because it's so poor."

If the high prices but poor harvest wasn't enough, farmers are also caught in a dilemma right now. Rain would hamper wheat and hay harvest, but the corn -- a money crop -- needs a drink.

"I'd say we're close to half," Wilson said of completing wheat harvest. "But, we need a rain for where the corn is. It's in a critical stage. But, there are farmers with hay down. It's a busy time of the year. Nothing is going to please everyone."

The freeze that was already endured sure didn't please anyone.

"After the freeze, our projections weren't good," said Wood. "What we may see is some farmers double crop with soybeans. We've got the moisture for it."

Such is farming.

"Everything looked great this spring," said Wilson. "Then we had the freeze. It's always something."

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