After Drought, Then Deluge, Farmers Looking To Next Year

Sunday, July 8th 2007, 4:27 pm
By: News On 6

ENID, Okla. (AP) _ Without a good wheat crop next year, some area farmers may be in trouble, according to local grain dealers. This year's harvest was a bad one for many farmers who could not cut all their wheat because of heavy spring rain. Last year's crop also was a bad one because of drought.

At Carrier Mill & Elevator, manager Lee Redman said wheat closed at $5.42 Tuesday. Harvest was only 25% to 30% of last year's yield, which was not good either. Cost of crops was adjusted by insurance companies, he said, and farmers will be able to collect federal crop insurance.

Still, Redman said only about 50% of the wheat crop in the area was cut and much of it was poor quality.

``I think it will be extremely difficult for farmers, and will trickle down to equipment dealers and fertilizer dealers. They will all suffer through this. There's no money to buy,'' Redman said.

He predicted it will take a year to recover if next year's crops are good. If next year also is bad, he said, some people could go out of business.

``It's pretty tragic,'' he said.

The outlook for the wheat crop was good early, with U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Agricultural Statistics Service forecasting in May Oklahoma's wheat harvest would total 161 million bushels, up 97% from last year's dismal 81.6 million bushels.

That was before damage reports from a freeze in early April were released and disease and insects hit the wheat. Then the rain came.

Since May, NASS has issued two more harvest forecasts, each one about 10 million bushels lower than the previous one. In late June, the state forecast was down to 141.9 million bushels.

At Bison Cooperative, manager Rick Weathers said the harvest was pretty bad. He said what was being harvested was about one-third of the normal crop, based on a 10-year average.

``Some farmers got most of it cut, and a lot got half cut, but some didn't get any cut at all,'' he said.

Weathers said most had crop insurance and will be able to survive another year, but without a bumper crop next year things could be pretty bleak.

``The only thing that's helping this year is the price being up this year. If the price was lower than $5.50, it would have been tough,'' he said.

Prices are higher this year because of the low yields. Bison-area farmers harvested 275,000 bushels this year, he said. Last year, even with the drought, they still made an average year and harvested 800,000 bushels, Weathers said.

He considers a bumper crop to be 1 million bushels or more and to average between 800,000 and 900,000 bushels.

The story was the same in the Hennessey area, where Paul Campbell said many have collected crop insurance.

Farmers in the Hennessey area are in good shape financially, and Campbell said he is unaware of any who are in financial trouble. But next year, he said, they will have to have some income, either grain or livestock, to sustain them.

Campbell, location manager of Plains Partners in Hennessey, said some wheat in far western Oklahoma was good because farmers there cut early. The Hennessey area had prospects of good wheat, he said, but the rain came and the April freeze also hurt.

Norman Nelson, at Johnston Enterprises in Mutual, said there still is some wheat standing, but much of it is down. Harvest was not good, he said, and weather prevented farmers from cutting a large amount of wheat.

``We didn't take in what we thought we would take in. We're seeing more of this disastered out because of hail and downed wheat, but the Panhandle is good,'' he said.