DEER CREEK, Okla. (AP) _ Drought, wild fires, high winds, hailstorms, insects and frost damage are to blame for the state's worst wheat harvest in 50 years, experts say.
About 68 million bushels are expected this spring, which is less than half the yearly average since 2001.
Farmers could lose $125 million in revenue, with the price of wheat, at harvest, estimated at $4.75 a bushel. The average price since 2001 is $3.20.
Deer Creek farmer Ralph Meade said because of three consecutive years of bad crops and a record-breaking drought, June's wheat harvest will be the last at his farm.
``Farming is kind of like a marriage,'' Meade, 50, said. ``You give it everything you have. To break yourself away from that, it's devastating.''
Meade recently suffered a second heart attack. With mounting medical bills and two daughters he hopes to put through college, he said he needed work that would be more lucrative.
He and his wife, Janie, now sell real estate, and are converting their wheat fields to pasture for cattle.
``I finally came to the realization that I could not beat my head against the wall any longer. It's been a really tough decision,'' Ralph Meade said.
The family had already lost $150,000 in borrowed money in three years on wheat farming. Their crop insurance wouldn't cover the whole loss, and the meager harvest they were facing this year wouldn't cover the $70 per acre it cost to plant their crop.
When farm dollars circulated in rural communities are counted, this year's short crop could bring a $314 million loss to the state, said Oklahoma State University economist Kim Anderson.
The estimate is based on research showing that every $1 in farm income produces $2.51 for Oklahoma's economy.
Grain elevator operators will also be affected by this spring's poor wheat production.
Cassidy Grain, an 85-year-old family business in Frederick, sits in the middle of Oklahoma's hardest-hit wheat growing area.
The company usually handles about half of Tillman County's wheat harvest of 2.5 million to 3 million bushels. But Cassidy will only see about 10 percent of its normal shipments this year, said Mike Cassidy, the company's president. Cassidy's chemical and fertilizer business is the only other moneymaker.
Two employees have been laid off already, and a few more may get pink slips after the harvest, Cassidy said.
``It's the worst I've ever seen it in my lifetime,'' he said. ``We'll have no income for a year (from wheat), basically. It will be the toughest year we've ever had.''
``They always say: no matter how bad things are, it could be worse,'' Cassidy said. ``This sure makes me question that.''