Farmers facing poor wheat yields, could affect economy

CAMERON, Mo. - For many farmers in Kansas and Missouri, the wheat harvest is in full swing. There's just not enough of it. 

Brad Bray, a farmer in Cameron, Mo., farms corn, soybeans and wheat. He's currently harvesting 200 acres of soft wheat, which is what is used for pastas and macaroni and cheese.

They have gotten up to 85 bushels per acre in the past on the land, but this year, the 10-hour days will probably only yield 35 bushels per acre maximum.

Bray said that's due to the weather.

He said wheat planting was delayed because of last year's weather and this spring was too cold.

"Weather in the spring was very cool. We had some cold snaps that were very untimely on the wheat as it was coming out of its dormancy," Bray said. "What it means is lower yields. That obviously hurts our profit on a wheat crop, also right now prices are down.”

A poor harvest could also have an impact on the national economy, according to a climatologist.

Mary Knapp, a service climatologist with Kansas State University’s agronomy department, said the wheat harvest in Kansas this year could be one of the worst yet.

"The rains came too late to benefit the wheat production, so we may have our lowest wheat harvest on record," Knapp said in a press release.

The harvest could also affect other food availability and the overall economy. Knapp said drought conditions lead to poor pasture conditions, which affects ranchers and their cattle.

"Then it starts trickling into the community because if you have wheat farmers with very low production, they most likely also received very low income," Knapp said. "That farmer is not going to invest in machine upgrades or make as many purchases in the community. That will cause the economy to drag, which may result in a ripple effect that can be far-reaching."

Knapp said it takes just as long to recover from a drought as it does to reach drought status. She also said that getting a lot of rain may not help stop a drought either.

"You can have a drought punctuated by a flood and still be in a drought," Knapp said. "If the rain comes too quickly, it doesn't have a beneficial component."

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