DECREASED production of wheat boosts bushel price

Saturday, May 12th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Oklahoma's wheat production is down nearly a third compared to last year, but there is some good news for farmers who have wheat in their fields.

A decline in production because of last year's drought has pushed the bushel price to $3.05, up from $2.63 last year.

There's also good news for consumers, who are not expected to pay more for bread because of the increase.

Oklahoma is expected to produce 97.2 million bushels of wheat this year, down from last year's 142.8 million bushels, said a government forecast released Thursday.

Part of the Oklahoma crop is planted as pasture for cattle and part is harvested for grain beginning at the end of May. This year, the 3.6 million acres harvested for grain is the lowest in 30 years.

Paul Jackson, an Apache wheat farmer and Oklahoma Wheat Commission representative, said Oklahoma normally produces 145 million to 150 million bushels of wheat annually.

``Acres are down considerably this time,'' Jackson said. ``If we make 95 million bushels, that will be the second lowest wheat crop we've had in around 25 or 30 years.''

Last year's drought kept many farmers from planting wheat. Some planted in dry dirt and hoped for rain, and in some areas, it worked.

But in other areas, acres of wind-rippled dirt and half-buried fence posts are evidence many crops didn't make it. Many of those farmers are relying on crop insurance payments.

Roger Gribble, an agronomist with the Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension Service, said recent hail in some areas has made the situation worse. Hail hit portions of southwestern Oklahoma along Interstate 40, including Kingfisher.

Oklahoma ranks second in the United States behind Kansas in wheat production. Production in Kansas is forecast at 285.6 million bushels this year, down from 347.8 million last year.

Overall, the nation's winter wheat is expected to be down 14 percent compared to last year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said.