Higher wheat prices come at high cost for farmers

This is the way some wheat fields in Marion County looked following a hard freeze and snow in April. The harvest around Hillsboro was around 38 percent of normal?leaving little left in storage for farmers to sell these days at prices approaching $8 per bushel. Free Press file photo.

The price of a bushel of wheat has increased $2 since harvest, but most Marion County farmers would just as soon not talk about it.

That?s because they aren?t reaping much of the benefit from the price hike.

Lyman Adams, general manager of Cooperative Grain & Supply in Hillsboro, said the wheat yield from the 2007 harvest was 38 percent of normal.

This was due mostly to the prolonged freezes this spring that followed a very warm period when wheat developed more rapidly than usual.

Adams said by the end of August, about 70 percent of the Marion County wheat crop had been sold. Farmers always have an option of whether to sell at harvest or hold wheat at the elevator for a later sale.

He said this leaves 30 percent of the 38 percent of normal storage left to sell from CG&S.

?So you?re not talking much compared to normal,? Adams said.

He noted that on a day-to-day business basis, for farmers who usually extend wheat sales out for price protection or to even income, ?this means our standard sale may be down from a thousand bushels at a time to a hundred bushels at a time.?

Dick Tippin, TEAM marketing specialist for CG&S, said the cash price for wheat Monday was $7.82 a bushel compared to $5.40 to $5.50 at harvest time.

He said the trend for wheat prices appears to be upward.

?There?s good export demand and a lack of supply driving prices up worldwide,? Tippin said. ?It?s not just us locally. A lot of countries in the world didn?t have particularly good wheat harvests either. Now, many are buying.?

So, how are local farmers feeling about the higher price for wheat?

Three farmers agreed to talk about the situation if their identities could be kept anonymous.

A farmer from the Marion/Florence area said: ?We?ve worked hard for this land. We?ve sacrificed for it. It?s hard to make other people understand how it feels to see the chance of even a little added prosperity slip away.

?We?ll have to wait clear until next June now to have cash input from wheat. From now until then, it will all be outputs.

?It?s been a hard way to live at times,? he added. ?But we do better now. We live better. We?ve learned to take our money when we can get it, and move on when we can?t. There?s no point dwelling on wheat prices.?

A farmer from the west end of the county said, ?It?s like getting hit twice?to see the wheat freeze, then to take a lower price when you could have had more. It?s the first time in 20 years I haven?t held wheat to sell.

?I had a 50-acre field with the worst wheat the family has seen on it in 40 years. Back in the 1960s it froze too, but not as bad as this.

?It froze back at least two times for a prolonged period both times. The yield was only 500 bushels, 10 bushels an acre.

?I put soybeans after the wheat on that field, but it?s a big chance. There?s been rain, but a lot of it has gone around us. It?s a shot that the beans might help, but it?s a big shot that could miss. A decent wheat yield with a high price would have been better.?

A farmer from the northern end of the county said, ?The wheat was laid so flat from the freezes that we just turned the cows in on it. When they had it grazed off, I put forage (sorghum) in on some and milo on the rest.

?I?m more interested in cattle prices now. I just try not to think of wheat until next year?s is planted.?

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