Wednesday, December 5, 2012

All I Want for Christmas

It's a picture postcard kind of day for December, as the  brilliant green of the winter wheat crop is offset by a cerulean blue sky dotted by wispy white clouds.

But looks can be deceiving. The 2013 winter wheat crop is in desperate need of a drink of water. USDA numbers released last week reflect what farmers have known for awhile: Much of the nation's winter wheat land is bone dry and struggling to produce a crop. In its latest crop progress report, the USDA reports that wheat in 18 states is rated 26 percent very poor or poor, 41 percent fair and 33 percent good or excellent.
Those are the worst ratings since 1985. By comparison, last year at this point, 52 percent in the same region was good or excellent. The traditional breadbasket areas from Texas north to South Dakota seem to be faring the worst at this point in the crop season.Yes, that includes Kansas. These are also the areas in the "red" of exceptional or extreme drought on the U.S. Drought Monitor. Not only has there not been enough rain for the crop, higher-than-usual temperatures are promoting evaporation of the moisture that is available.

The Kansas Wheat office reports:
This year, the uncertainty about the weather comes in addition to uncertainty about the farm safety net outlined in the farm bill. The 2008 Farm Bill expired on Sept. 30 with no replacement legislation, and haggling in Washington continues over whether or not there will be a farm bill in the foreseeable future, much less what it will contain. Farmers do have certainty in crop insurance contracts, which have been critical for many crop producers facing weather disasters this year, paying out more than $5 billion in indemnities so far.

Though effects of the drought are also apparent in wheat futures markets, consumer prices for wheat products in the U.S. should not rise significantly solely on the basis of a poor wheat crop. ... Only about 10 percent of the cost of bread comes from commodity wheat, unlike products that have a more direct route to consumers, like meats. About 60 loaves of bread can be made from a bushel of wheat, meaning a loaf made with wheat that cost $9 per bushel probably contains 15 cents of wheat.
There's a long way to go before the harvest of the 2013 wheat crop. Even though it doesn't fit in a stocking, rain would be the very best Christmas gift that we Kansas wheat farmers could imagine right about now. 

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